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Updates you’ve posted to Facebook and Twitter can present obvious problems when you’re searching for a job or starting a new relationship. But a growing number of legal cases suggests this may be just the beginning—divorce lawyers are mining information on social networks to reveal cases of infidelity, hidden assets, and other “secret” aspects of a person’s life.

Frank Rudewicz, principal and counsel for advisory services for Marcum LLP, a firm of accountants, advisors, and investigators, says that information gleaned from blogs, social networks, and photo-sharing sites can provide crucial evidence for legal cases.

For example: one 38-year-old man hired Marcum to look into his estranged wife’s finances, because he suspected that she might have hidden sources of income. The investigators found public pictures on her Facebook profile that showed her in Aruba with friends and dining at the Ritz-Carlton in Maui. By following her public posts on Twitter, they also learned that her family owned a successful restaurant, and that she was involved in expanding the business. The investigators used these leads to reveal all the wife’s assets.

Social networking technologies have forced people to learn how to negotiate the tricky waters of job search and relationships—all complicated by the “permanent record” created on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. And while it can be awkward for a new love to see the residue of your old love scattered across a Facebook page, it’s even more awkward to untangle these ties when you’re getting divorced.

A 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81 percent of divorce attorneys had increased their use of social media to gather evidence over the past five years. They named Facebook as their main source, followed by MySpace and Twitter.

Rudewicz says it’s rare to find “a smoking gun” this way, but notes that “social media is one link combined with all your other investigative sources. It often provides the lead.” In many cases, Rudewicz says, he uses social media to follow up on other evidence. 

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Credit: Technology Review

Tagged: Web, Facebook, Twitter, social networking, social media, anthropology

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