Social Media & Family Law in Michigan: Don't Access Other People's Accounts Without Perm
Social media often is often a significant source of information about parties to a family law case.
Litigants are frequently asked by their attorneys to gather digital information related to their case.
Facebook photos and post, e-mails, text messages... all manner of information now is available for review that did not exist 20 years ago.
But what about your spouse's e-mail or social media accounts? Can you access those? On what grounds and under what circumstances?
As a general rule: Do not log into another person's social media, e-mail or data storage account unless you have previously been given permission by the owner of the account.
Knowledge of the login/password is not the same as permission! Remember: information stored on those accounts may be accessible through informal or formal discovery during your family law case. Accessing the information without the prior consent of the account owner could potentially subject you to criminal liability.
Michigan Compiled Law 752.795
A person shall not intentionally and without authorization or by exceeding valid authorization do any of the following:
(a) Access or cause access to be made to a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network to acquire, alter, damage, delete, or destroy property or otherwise use the service of a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network.
(b) Insert or attach or knowingly create the opportunity for an unknowing and unwanted insertion or attachment of a set of instructions or a computer program into a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network, that is intended to acquire, alter, damage, delete, disrupt, or destroy property or otherwise use the services of a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network. This subdivision does not prohibit conduct protected under section 5 of article I of the state constitution of 1963 or under the first amendment of the constitution of the United States.
Take note: 752.795 specifically notes that knowledge of a password does not mean you have unlimited ability to search through an account owner's digital information. "Exceeding valid authorization" means that a person with access for a particular purpose cannot exceed that purpose without potential criminal liability.
Be careful when interacting with social media!