Can You Sue for Invasion of Privacy if Someone Reposts an Instagram Photo?

basketball-31353_1280If a basketball player posts a public photo to Instagram, and then another basketball player reposts the photo, can the first basketball player sue for Invasion of Privacy, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Defamation, and General Negligence?

The answer is yes, you can sue, but you will not survive a motion to dismiss. That is the lesson from Binion v. O’Neal, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43456, 1 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 2, 2015).

US District Judge Avern Cohn started this opinion in the most logical place: Instagram’s terms of service. The Court quote Instagram’s FAQ’s and privacy statement as follows:

Instagram is a social media website that describes itself as a “fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures.” (FAQ, Instagram.com, https://instagram.com/about/faq/ (last visited Mar. 5, 2015)) Every Instagram user is advised that “[a]ll photos are public by default which means they are visible to anyone using Instagram or on the instagram.com website.” (Id.) However, Instagram allows users to “make [their] account private” such that “only people who follow [the user] on Instagram will be able to see [their] photos.” (Id.) If the Instagram user fails to make his/her account private, “anyone can subscribe to follow [their] photos.” (Id.)

Instagram‘s privacy policy states that “[b]y using our Service you understand and agree that we are providing a platform for you to post content, including photos, comments and other materials (“User Content”), to the Service and to share User Content publicly. This means that other Users may search for, see, use, or share any of your User Content that you make publicly available through the Service.” (Privacy Policy, Instagram.com, https://instagram.com/about/legal/privacy/ (last visited Mar. 5, 2015)) The privacy policy further states, “[a]ny information or content that you voluntarily disclose for posting to the Service, such as User Content, becomes available to the public, as controlled by any applicable privacy settings that you set. . . . Once you have shared User Content or made it public, that User Content may be re-shared by others.” (Id.)

Binion v. O’Neal, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43456, 2-3 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 2, 2015).

The Court reviewed each claim against Defendant Burke. The analysis focused heavily on Instagram’s privacy policies and Michigan law, as case was based in diversity.

The Invasion of Privacy cause of action was based on all four traditional claims: (1) “[i]ntrusion upon the plaintiff’s seclusion or solitude, or into his private affairs”; (2) “[p]ublic disclosure of embarrassing private facts about the plaintiff”; (3) “[p]ublicity which places the plaintiff in a false light in the public eye”; (4) “[a]ppropriation, for the defendant’s advantage, of the plaintiff’s name or likeness.” Binion, at *6.

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All of these claims failed. First, the Court found that a publicly posted photo to Instagram by a Plaintiff could not form a claim for “Intrusion upon Seclusion.” Binion, at *7. The Court agreed with the Defendant “that no reasonable person, particularly in the social media age, would find it objectionable to obtain and repost a photograph that someone had already posted publicly.” Id.

The Court also found there was no public disclosure of embarrassing private facts or “false light” claims from reposting a photo that originated from the Plaintiff. Binion, at *7-9. There was also no appropriation, as there was no evidence that reposting the photo of the Plaintiff gave the Defendant any pecuniary benefit. Binion, at *10.

The intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) requires a Plaintiff prove “(1) extreme and outrageous conduct; (2) intent or recklessness; (3) causation; and (4) severe emotional distress.” Binion, at *11. Reposting a publicly available photo from social media does not go “beyond all possible bounds of decency” to sustain a claim for IIED. Id.

The Court’s analysis of defamation was interesting. Defamation requires (1) “a false and defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff”; (2) “an unprivileged publication to a third party”; (3) “fault amounting to at least negligence on the part of the publisher”; and (4) “either actionability of the statement irrespective of special harm or the existence of special harm caused by the publication.” Binion, at *12.

The Court focused on the fact there were no statements attributed to the Defendant. The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant’s posting of the photo implied the Plaintiff was mentally handicapped or his appearance made him “worthy of ridicule.” Binion, at *13.

The Court rejected these arguments. There was no evidence that the Defendant had any statements that implied the Plaintiff was mentally handicapped. Moreover, Michigan Courts have held that online statements are “statements of pure opinion, rather than statement or implications of actual, provable fact.” Binion, at *13-14, citing Ghanam v Does, 303 Mich. App. 522, 547 (2014).

The Plaintiff’s general negligence claim also failed, because there was not a legal duty between both basketball players, other than “the general duty to conform to the legal standard of reasonable conduct in the light of the apparent risk.” Binion, at *14. Moreover, the Defendant argued that his relationship with the “Plaintiff is no different than with the millions of other Instagram users who post photographs that can be shared, reposted, and commented on.” Id.

The Court agreed. There is no case law precedent that supports the legal theory that there is a “social media duty” on reposting photos with foreseeable consequences of emotional harm. Id.

Bow Tie Thoughts

The collection of Instagram photos in cases involving online torts is an interesting one. The subject photos can exist in the Instagram App, on a party’s Instagram photo online, and in the Camera Roll of the phone. The “right” image to capture for litigation can turn on the type of case. Many times simply printing the image as a PDF from Instagram.com could be all that is required. Other cases might just require a screen capture of the app on the smartphone. There are situations where collecting the photo from the smartphone is required, such as when GPS metadata is relevant. Whatever the situation, attorneys should consider what is the relevant source of information to preserve.

Are “Read Receipt” Emails Hearsay?

How do you authenticate “Read Receipt” auto-generated emails? Are the messages hearsay?

social-349528_1280This issue was raised by a Defendant who challenged “Read Receipt” emails generated by one of the Defendants after reading an email from the Plaintiff.

The Court rejected the argument that the “Read Receipt” email was unauthenticated hearsay. Fox v. Leland Volunteer Fire/Rescue Dep’t Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30583, 31-32 (E.D.N.C. Mar. 10, 2015).

The Court outright questioned whether a “Read Receipt” email was even a statement, which requires that an assertion is intended under Federal Rules of Evidence 801(a). The Court considered that even if an auto-generated “Read Receipt” email was a statement, it would be admissible against the Defendant because the email was created by the Defendant reading (or at least opening) the Plaintiff’s email message. This is an unique way of saying “Read Receipt” emails are party admissions under Federal Rule of Evidence Rule 801(d)(2)(A) and (D), because the message came from the Defendant’s work email for a matter he was supposed to investigate as part of his job function. Fox, at *30-31.

The Defendant argued the “Read Receipt” was not properly authenticated, because the Plaintiff failed to have a technical affidavit explaining how “read receipt” emails are generated for reliability. Fox, at *31.

The Court rejected the argument the Plaintiff needed to explain how Defendant’s auto-generated email was created. While there are times for technical affidavits, this was not one of them according to the Court. The Court explained that since the email was being admitted as a statement of a party opponent, the Court did not require a technical report to ensure the reliability of the email. Fox, at *31, citing Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2).

Bow Tie Thoughts

Authentication and hearsay are issues Courts deal with daily over electronically stored information. I am confident this was not the first Court to deal with the issue of “read receipt” emails, but it was the first I have seen.

I would argue the auto-generated message is not hearsay, because there is no statement from a human being. However, one could argue with a straight face such messages are statements, because the data generated from the time it was read and the sending of the message is an assertion of fact. That being said, finding the “read receipt” message was a party admission was a very clever argument.

If You Also Love Evidence 

I have loved Evidence since law school. I am very happy to be doing a webinar with Guidance Software on the Admissibility of Electronically Stored Information on April 8, 2015, with Judge Matthew A. Sciarrino, Jr. of the Kings County Supreme Court, Kathleen F. McConnell, Esq., of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, and Chad McManamy, Esq., Vice President of E-Discovery and Assistant General Counsel for Guidance Software. If you would like to learn more and attend, you can register at here. I am really looking forward to the webinar.

 

Return to the TAR-Pit

Take note all, there is a new predictive coding case by Judge Andrew Peck. The good Judge waded into the TAR-pit of transparency, which in my opinion has caused much unnecessary problems with judges and parties who believe “transparency” is required when predictive coding is used, mandating the disclosure of seed sets. I do not think the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure place such a burden on producing parties by attacking the work-product doctrine or compelling the production of irrelevant information.

Judge Peck summarized that “where the parties do not agree to transparency, the decisions are split and the debate in the discovery literature is robust.” Rio Tinto Plc v. Vale S.A., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24996, 8 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 2, 2015).

Judge Peck’s new opinion did not rule on the issue of seed transparency, because the parties had agreed to an ESI protocol that “disclosed all non-privilege documents in the control sets.” Rio Tinto Plc., at *10. However, Judge Peck provided his thoughts on what I would call a bias against technology-assisted review:

One point must be stressed -it is inappropriate to hold TAR to a higher standard than keywords or manual review. Doing so discourages parties from using TAR for fear of spending more in motion practice than the savings from using TAR for review.

Rio Tinto Plc, at *10, emphasis added.

Business team enjoying victory

That statement is extremely important. There is no valid reason to treat “predictive coding,” or any other form of analytics such as conceptual searching, email threading, or clustering, to higher discovery standards because “technology” is used.

The issue is whether or not the production is adequate. A producing party should not have to disclose attorney work product in analyzing their case or proving the technology functions. Courts do not hold competency hearings on whether an attorney properly knows how to conduct online legal research to ensure attorneys are maintaining their ethical duty of candor to the court. The same logic applies to technology-assisted review and productions.

Judge Peck did state while he generally believed in cooperation, “requesting parties can insure that training and review was done appropriately by other means, such as statistical estimation of recall at the conclusion of the review as well as by whether there are gaps in the production, and quality control review of samples from the documents categorized as now responsive.” Rio Tinto Plc., at *9-10, referencing Grossman & Cormack, Comments, supra, 7 Fed. Cts. L. Rev. at 301-12.

The focus of discovery should be whether or not a production is adequate. Are there production gaps? Is the parent-child relationship maintained between email messages and attachments? Is the producing party conducting quality assurance testing? Is the producing party documenting their efforts?

Judge Peck’s latest opinion will not be the final word on the issue of “transparency.” However, Judge Peck is a well-respected jurist who understands technology-assisted review. His statement that “it is inappropriate to hold TAR to a higher standard than keywords or manual review” is a very welcome one.

WHOA! A Prevailing Party Recovered $57,873.61 in eDiscovery Costs!

thumb-456698_1280My God, is it true? Did a Prevailing Party recover virtually all of its eDiscovery costs?

The answer is yes, thanks to a case in Colorado.

United States District Judge Christine M. Arguello opened her order denying the Plaintiff’s motion to review the clerk’s taxation of costs with the following:

Because Defendants’ costs related to the electronically stored information (“ESI”) are expenses enumerated in 28 U.S.C. § 1920(4), and Plaintiffs were aware that Defendants would have to retain an outside consultant to retrieve and convert the ESI into a retrievable format, Plaintiffs’ Motion is denied.

Comprehensive Addiction Treatment Ctr. v. Leslea, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17878, 1.

Rock on. Let’s review the Court’s reasoning.

The Plaintiff took the position that the Defendants’ eDiscovery cost award be reduced from $57,873.61 to $2,387.03, striking the work of a third-party eDiscovery service provider who performed the “retrieving, restoring, and converting data,” on the grounds the work did not constitute “copying.” Leslea, at *2.

The Court explained the Defendants hired their eDiscovery service provider to retrieve and restore ESI in order to respond to the Plaintiff’s Interrogatories and Requests for Productions. The requested discovery included “correspondence, summaries, emails, reports, and memos” relating to specific subject matter. Leslea, at *4-5. The Court noted that the work was complex and time-intensive, requiring three consecutive tolling agreements. Id.

The Defendants communicated with the Plaintiffs three times on the challenges over ESI, including providing detailed information on the scope of the data, archiving, and retention periods on multiple sources of data (hard drives, back-up tapes, etc). Leslea, at *5. In the second communication, the Defendants explained how the service provider restored 83 back-up tapes; and in the third the service provider’s forensic investigator detailed the difficulties in restoring the subject ESI. Id

The Court noted that the Plaintiffs were aware of the ESI challenges, did not recommend any changes to the scope of discovery, and even filed a new complaint with additional allegations. Leslea, at *5-6.

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The Court held that the ESI expenses were “reasonably necessary for use in the case” and not done for the mere convenience of the parties. Leslea, at *6. The Court concluded the order as follows:

Indeed, Plaintiffs were aware of the monumental effort to retrieve and convert the data into a retrievable format in response to their Interrogatories and Requests for Production. The costs incurred by Defendants, the prevailing party, in responding to Plaintiffs’ requests are expenses that are shifted to Plaintiffs, the losing party. Indeed, Plaintiffs own litigation choices and aggressive course of discovery necessarily resulted in “heightened” defense costs. Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that these costs are improper. Accordingly, Defendants are entitled to recover their costs in full measure as determined by the Clerk, which it has identified as $57,873.61.

Leslea, at *6-7, citing In re Williams Sec. Litig-WCG Subclass, 558 F.3d at 1150.

Bow Tie Thoughts

Thank you Judge Arguello for understanding a simple truth: eDiscovery requires technology to retrieve information and translate it into reasonable useable forms that are necessary for the case. This technology and expertise costs money. Yes, this case had an expert who explained what was being done during the litigation. Not every case has such powerful facts explaining the why and how of restoring ESI to make it reasonably useable, but this is an epic victory for taxation of eDiscovery costs.

Thank You Judge John Facciola

facciola2

Thanksgiving time is one for reflection. I have been thinking about Judge John Facciola’s impact on the world of eDiscovery with his upcoming retirement. I am very thankful we had such a dedicated judge who has been such a leader in electronic discovery.

Judge Facciola had his share big cases, but the important ones are the cases that give a nuts and bolts framework on how to actually litigate issues surrounding electronically stored information.

Judge Facciola excelled at these cases and showed a profound willingness to be hands on in solving issues, from search term efficiency to hosted repositories. The Judge’s commanding use of language is second to none, with many memorable quotes.

The good Judge is a profoundly thoughtful individual, whose interests include sailing, baseball, history, and a strong dedication to our justice system. I wanted to share a couple of stories I had with the Judge over the years.

First Time I Met the Judge

I met Judge Facciola on Super Tuesday 2008 in Washington, DC. I was in DC for a conference and had a webinar planned with him later in the month. I wanted to take the opportunity to meet him in person since I was in town.

After going through security at the Federal Courthouse, I eventually found the waiting room for his department’s chambers. Observing large format photos of boats on the wall (one was a dory) and magazine on the America’s Cup, I thought, “Cool, we can talk about sailing.”

The Judge greeted me in one of his signature bow ties. Ironically, I did not know he wore bow ties at that time. My react was simply, “Awesome.”

We had lunch in the judges’ dining room that overlooks the US Capital Building. It is still surreal to remember, seeing other judges eating lunch and discussing matters of importance. To this date it is still one of the most memorable events in my career so far.

Judge Facciola and I discussed search terms and discovery requests. I shared with him my concern that “text speak” such as “LOL” type acronyms should be included when conducting searches of text messages and instant messages. He actually sat-up and said, “I had not thought of that.”

After leaving the Courthouse, I met up with some attorney friends. We watched the Super Tuesday results at different campaign parties at some of DC’s more entertaining pubs, but that adventure is another story.

An Evening at the Cosmos Club

I visited DC in 2013 for a business trip. I contacted the Judge if he had time to meet for lunch or coffee while I was in town. He offered to meet for dinner at the Cosmos Club.

I am normally well versed in history, but I had to look up the Cosmos Club. The Club was founded in 1878 dedicated to the advancement of art, science, and literature. Its members included Alexander Graham Bell, Woodrow Wilson, and virtually every Secretary of State.

There is no question the Cosmos Club was the most regal institution I have ever entered. For me, it represented those dedicated to knowledge with a true sense of class. The library was simply majestic, where one could be lost for hours in study.

The Judge and I enjoyed a good meal, discussing the law, film, boats, and of course US History. At a prior dinner before Legal Tech 2009, we discussed the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the unfair court martial of Captain Charles McVay III, leaving the others looking at us in respectful confusion.

While we were discussing topics from eDiscovery to President Garfield, another dinner party walked by our table. The person in the lead looked familiar, but I could not identify the dinner guest.

Once the other party was seated, the Judge said, “That’s General Petraeus.”

A True Statesman

Jessica Mederson and I invited Judge Facciola to record an Independence Day podcast for our blog The Legal Geeks. Judge Facciola truly loves the United States. The Judge shared his thoughts on the 4th of July, the meaning of Independence, and the role of the Judiciary in upholding the promise of the Declaration of Independence. Jess and I were clearly in awe of what the Judge had to say about our country and freedom.

Legacy on the Court

Judge Facciola leaves a powerful legacy of civic duty, honor, and a strong work ethic. I wish him well in his future adventures, whether they are out sailing or well-earned time with family. Thank you for your service, Your Honor.

Moreover, thank you for the tip about Beau Ties Ltd of Vermont. Wonderful collection of bow ties.

Producing as PDFs When Native Files Are Not in a Reasonably Useable Form

Not all native files are in a “reasonably useable form.” To borrow from the Dark Knight, sometimes, producing native files as PDF’s with metadata is the “reasonably useable” form you deserve, but not the one you need for convenient document review.

Search-DataA Plaintiff sought a native file production from a computer system that maintained medical files of prison inmates in a database application called “Centricity.” The Defendant produced the medical records as PDF’s in reverse chronological order and a motion to compel ensued. Peterson v. Matlock, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152994, at *3-4(D.N.J.Oct. 29, 2014).

A requesting party can state the form of production in their request. A producing party must produce the information as it is “kept in the usual course of business or must organize and label them to correspond to the categories in the request.” Peterson, at *6, Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(2)(E).

If a producing party objects to producing as native files (or any form of production), they have the burden of showing the “undue hardship or expense” prohibiting the production in the stated form. Peterson, at *7, citing Susquehanna Commercial Fin., Inc. v. Vascular Res., Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127125, at *13 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 1, 2010).

The Defendants explained that they had limited control on the export of the medical records, thus could not produce the information the way the Plaintiff requested in a piecemeal fashion or chart form. Peterson, at *5. Moreover, to produce the information in “chart format and organized into various categories as they are viewed through Centricity ‘would be an inordinate drain of time and manpower’ because staff from the DOC would be required to ‘sort through each page of the medical record and make the determination as to which category it fits into.’” Peterson, at *5-6.

The Court held that even though the PDF production was “less convenient” for the Requesting Party, “requiring staff from the DOC to sort and identify each page of every inmate medical record would create a substantial hardship and/or expense, which outweighs Plaintiff’s interests in receiving the records in their native format.” Peterson, at *7.

Bow Tie Thoughts

Document review and medical records can become complicated. I worked on a case where we as the plaintiff produced medical records to an insurance company in a personal injury case. We were given the Plaintiff’s medical records on easy-to-use interactive DVDs that had an impressive viewer where X-Rays were in 3D and could be rotated in any direction. It was extremely dynamic in analyzing the Plaintiff’s injuries.

The attorney at the insurance company did not want to use the DVDs and requested we produced everything as PDFs, thereby destroying the insurance company’s ability to review anything. The lawyer claimed the DVDs were “too complex” for him. Despite conferring directly with the IT support for the insurance company, we produced the information again as PDFs.

The case of Peterson v. Matlock is different, because here we have an export issue that does not match the stated format in the request. One option might be to give the Plaintiff access to a database with the information. Such access would likely NOT be proportional to the case given the cost to do so, but there are situations where this could happen.

The Court’s very short ruling is based on proportionality based on cost of producing the  information stated in the request against the value of the information to the Plaintiff. This case easily could have been decided as a form of production case, in that the native files were not in a reasonably useable form, thus required translation to PDFs. This might be the less conventional approach, but would be statutorily correct in my opinion.

Did a Judge Say Scanning of a Native File and OCR?

Taxation of cost cases can get funky. One such example is where a party sought costs for discovery to be produced in “OCR” format. The Court went on to state: “The scanning and conversion of native files to the agreed-upon format for production of ESI constitutes ‘making copies of materials’ as pursuant to §1920(4)” and found the OCR costs recoverable. Kuznyetsov v. West Penn Allegheny Health Sys., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150503 (W.D. Pa.Oct. 23, 2014).

Surprised

The Court further held that that cost of 5 cents per page for TIFF-ing was not unreasonable and the cost of 24 cents per page for scanning paper documents to also not be unreasonably high.  Id.

What is strange is seeing the words “native file” and “scanning” and “OCR format” in the same sentence. Native files are already electronically stored information. Business data such as email messages, text messages, Word documents, Excel files, are already searchable. These is no reason to print the ESI to paper, then scan them, and then perform optical character recognition on them. All of that would be extremely strange and drive up costs.

There is a chance the Court was discussing both scanning paper and conversion of native files in the same sentence, without directly saying “paper documents” before “conversion of native files.” Even if that was the case, I would recommend producing native files natively to keep costs down. Only convert privileged or confidential native files to TIFFs or PDFs for redaction.

If native files need to be converted to static images such as TIFFs in order to redact confidential information, making the static images searchable with OCR would make sense, because you want to produce information that is searchable, but not with the confidential information also searchable. However, if these native files converted into static images did not need to be redacted, there would be no reason to make them OCR searchable. A producing party could simply produced the “extracted text” from the native files, thus including searchable information for a review database to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.