In an Australian first, Victoria Police has served an
intervention order using Facebook. The offender had harassed his
former partner on the social networking site two days after the
expiration of an earlier intervention order.
Following the failure of traditional methods of service, the
Victorian Police successfully applied to a magistrate for an order
for substituted service using Facebook. All relevant information,
including the order, extracts, an explanation and contact
information, was typed into a private message and delivered to the
account used to intimidate the woman. In addition, a constable was
videotaped reading out the order as if he was serving the offender
and posted the video online.
While the man in question made no indication that he had
received the order, police were eventually able to make contact, at
which time he confirmed that he had read the message but had not
watched the video. He agreed to comply with the order and delete
his Facebook profile.
This isn't the first time that Facebook has been used as
part of the legal process here in Australia. In December 2008
Master Harper of the ACT Supreme Court allowed a lender to serve a
default judgment on borrowers via Facebook, after conventional
methods of contacting them had failed, a decision which is believed
to have been a world-first. Courts in New Zealand and Canada have
Despite these precedents, organisations should still be careful
before they start poking, tweeting, or friending on social media as
part of their legal strategy.
First, any sort of social media will be governed by the
Secondly, your access to information might be controlled by the
user on the social networking. In the ACT case, the borrowers'
Facebook setting was "everyone", making their information
accessible to anyone, including their lender.
Thirdly, even if your proposed use is covered, you also must
comply with privacy laws. In the Victorian case, the legislation
exempts the Victorian Police from complying with the relevant
privacy principles if it believes, on reasonable grounds, that
non-compliance is necessary in order to perform its community
policing functions (section 13(d) of the Information Privacy Act
So, for example, if a private organisation asks its employees
for their social networking information as a way to contact them in
an emergency, it could only use the information for contacting them
(unless that other use is specifically allowed by the National
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The issue of recording telephone calls was recently considered in the Federal Court in Furnari v Ziegert  FCA 1080.
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