Pursuant to Stored Communications Act, Court Quashes Subpoena for Private Messages, Remands for Further Consideration of Facebook Wall and MySpace Comments

Crispin v. Christian Audigier, Inc., 717 F. Supp. 2d 965 (C.D. Cal. 2010)

Defendant subpoenaed several social networking sites seeking disclosure of plaintiff’s subscriber information and communications relevant to the underlying dispute.  Plaintiff sought to quash the subpoenas arguing that such disclosure would violate the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”).  The magistrate judge denied plaintiff’s motion to quash upon finding the SCA was inapplicable. Plaintiff moved for reconsideration of the order.

Granting reconsideration, the district court judge found the SCA was applicable to the social networking websites at issue (Facebook, MySpace, Media Temple) and quashed the subpoenas to the extent they sought private messages.  However, the court recognized a distinction between strictly private messages and those posted more openly, such as on plaintiff’s Facebook wall or MySpace comments.*  Specifically, the court noted the inapplicability of the SCA to information that is readily available to the general public.  Thus, a review of plaintiff’s privacy settings was necessary to determine the extent of access allowed to his Facebook wall and MySpace comments (although the court recognized that the record implied that access was restricted).  Accordingly, the district court vacated the magistrate judge’s order as to those comments and remanded for further investigation.

* For the unfamiliar, comments posted to an account holder’s Facebook wall or MySpace comments are displayed such that they are immediately viewable by any visitor to the account holder’s website.

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