Your Facebook Status: Foreclosed

facebook foreclosedForeclosure via Facebook? With roughly 4 million foreclosures in the pipeline in this country, some legal experts say it's just a matter of time until lenders win the right to serve foreclosure documents through the giant social network.

That day has already come for one couple in Australia. When they defaulted on a six-figure loan and couldn't be found via a physical address or email, the lender's enterprising lawyers located them on Facebook. The lawyers were able to verify the couple's identities by matching up their names and birthdates -- and, of course, the fact that they had "friended" each other.

Australian courts upheld the lender's right to send foreclose notices via Facebook, citing the fact that the couple didn't enable privacy protections on their Facebook accounts and were frequent enough visitors to the site that they would "reasonably receive notice as a result."



While Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, says he is unaware of Facebook being used in the U.S. to deliver legal notifications, but "it's bound to happen," he said. "The real concern the courts have is whether it's a fair notice that the person actually receives." According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, courts in New Zealand, Canada and the U.K. already have adopted the Australian example to avoid having cases stall when people can't be located and served in person.

"There are people who exist only online," Joseph DeMarco, co-chair of the American Bar Association's criminal justice cyber crime committee, told the publication. The ability to serve documents by social-media networks would be useful, he said.

Facebook has taken heat before about its policies protecting the personal data of its 694 million users worldwide. Following the case in Australia, which happened in 2008, company spokesman Barry Schnitt said the company was pleased to see the Australian court validate Facebook as a reliable, secure and private communication medium. (Facebook did not respond to messages left by AOL.)

Is it appropriate to use social networks to find people and deliver legal papers to them via the network?

"No one likes to receive a legal service," said Rotenberg. Legal service, after all, usually isn't good news: Someone wants you for something. And yes, he adds, "There are going to be privacy concerns, but in some respects they're almost inescapable."

Email, by contrast, is generally not considered by courts to be a safe or reliable way to deliver legal notices. We get too much email, much of it winds up in spam and we don't always open everything in our in-boxes. Legal notices delivered this way can easily be discounted with a simple "I didn't see the email."

But Facebook, said Rotenberg, is different. If you don't have thousands of friends and you regularly post status updates indicating that you are active on the site, you lose the excuse that you likely overlooked the notice. Of course not everyone with a Facebook page visits the site regularly, but save it for the judge whether you're one of them.

Bottom line: It's probably going to be determined to be legal, just not likely to be popular. And should use of Facebook as an electronic process-server escalate as a norm, you can expect it would have some adverse impact on the site's participation levels. In the meantime, if you don't want the banks to find you, the best defense is enabling your privacy settings on Facebook and be mindful of the personal data you post.

For more on mortgages and related topics see these AOL Real Estate guides:

More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to
calculate mortgage payments.
Find
homes for sale in your area.
Find
foreclosures in your area.
Get
property tax help from our experts.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

90 Comments

Filter by:
afnnews

That is all we need is for Facebook to be involved with the banking, and legal system. They already collect way too much information as it is. I just love this saying "Keep social media and networking websites separate, like we keep the church separate from state !!" - governmentunleashed.com

June 23 2011 at 4:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bud

hi

June 20 2011 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JohnDunn

Good luck "deleting" your account. It can't be done. You can "deactivate" it but if someone types in your name your page pops right up. I had to change my name, birthday, etc., put in a bogus photo, delete ALL info, THEN "deactivate".

June 20 2011 at 1:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sire

Pathetic ruling.

June 19 2011 at 1:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Elizabeth

This is nonsense...I am about to delete my Facebook for illegal things that happen there especially like this one. Cannot believe people are wasting their time doing things like this instead of finding the cure for cancer.

June 19 2011 at 12:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Elizabeth's comment
Avice

OMG, I never thought of that. I think I will just whip up a cure for cancer tomorrow. Let's see, eye of newt, tongue of bat, what else was there? I'm sure there was some urine in there somewhere!!

Or maybe I'll just go around whopping people on the head and yelling HEAL!!

Before you slam me for "making fun" of cancer, I am a survivor and I resent your implication that all anybody has to do is shut off their Facebook and BINGO!!! The cure we've all been waiting for.

June 19 2011 at 1:48 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Avice's comment
steves1709

Maybe not cure cancer but people would have the time to make small, local society changes for good - pick up some litter, Habitat for Humanity and related groups, etc.

June 19 2011 at 5:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
lindian389

This is bull s**t. I think I'm gonna stop using facebook. My personal life is private. I don't want my business plasted for the world to see. Com[panies go over board as it is. I have companies call me from time to time saying I owe a bill bacause some butt wipe has given them my phone number.I don't find that funny and if facebook starts this I'LLSTOP USING IT PERIOD.

June 18 2011 at 11:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lindian389's comment
Kristen

If your personal life is "private", why the funk do you feel the need to broadcast over Facebook?

Last I knew, Facebook splashed your every little daily bit you posted to your "friends", from your toddler's green poo-poo to what you had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Thus is the nature of the internet. You put yourself out there. And as such, it's easier to track you down, in cases such as this.

June 19 2011 at 12:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
adeck220

or don't do anything that would warrant a legal notice...easy as that.

June 18 2011 at 11:13 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
steves1709

I didn't know that anyone over the age of 21 even used FB... Where do people find time for that junk anyways?

June 18 2011 at 10:17 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
Debbie Goodman

Facebook has really been my friend in recent months. My mother had been induced into a "predatory" loan by a not so popular bank. When she passed away, I inherited the debt, because it was secured to the house. For 2 and a half years I fought with this bank (They did a whole lot of "illegal" things connected with this loan!!!) and one night, I happened to find the facebook page of the guy I'd been dealing with who had been arrogant, rude, and obnoxious to me. Guess what? His facebook page made him look like an even BIGGER jackass! So, I printed it out (Hey, it wasn't set to "private", therefore it was for "public consumption") and mailed it into the big bank's headquarters, showing them what a buffoon they had working for them.

June 18 2011 at 9:37 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Kathleen

I'm with you, Auntie Getgo! I did the same thing to get a judgement and garnishment against a deadbeat I loaned money to! You are right about bookmarking friends and relatives of the deadbeat, it makes it easier to keep tabs on the deadbeat, because they all seem to blah, blah, blah, can't keep their business to themselves!. Makes it so easy to find them! I chased my deadbeat up and down the east coast, but I got him! And I got my money, thanks to the garnishment!

June 18 2011 at 9:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply