When the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a federal sex discrimination lawsuit in September 2009 on behalf of two women who claimed they were sexually harassed by a supervisor at Simply Storage Management, the company went after a trove of personal information: the women’s Facebook and MySpace accounts. What better than personal pictures, videos, and status updates to try to discredit the women’s claims of anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress caused by a hostile workplace?

The EEOC challenged the requests as overbroad, not relevant, and an invasion of privacy, but in May a federal district court judge in Indiana ruled that information from social media websites is not off-limits simply because the accounts are locked or private. The judge ordered the women to produce all profiles, postings, messages, photos, and videos related to “any emotion, feeling, or mental state.”

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