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Judge Orders Divorcing Couple to Swap Facebook Passwords

Some people would have no problem trusting their spouse with the passwords for their various different online accounts, perhaps even their banking pin codes. After all, they're the person you trust most in the world, and it's nice to know that if you forget your password, someone else can remind you. However, it's doubtful many people would trust their ex-husband or ex-wife with the same information. Even if it is just for a social network.

A Connecticut judge recently ordered a divorcing couple to swap the log in details for their Facebook and dating website accounts. According to Forbes, Judge Kenneth Shluger handed down the ruling in late September after a dispute arose between a husband and wife's divorce lawyers. Stephen Gallion told his lawyer that he had seen incriminating things on his wife's Facebook account (via their shared computer at home) that could help him in a custody battle. Mr. Gallion's lawyer asked Mrs. Courtney Gallion the password to her Facebook, as well as EHarmony and Match.com accounts she had created, during a deposition. Courtney initially declined but relented after receiving advice from her own lawyer. 

Courtney is said to have then texted a friend, instructing them to change her password and delete some of her messages. It was at this point that her husband's lawyer, Gary Traystman, stepped in and asked the judge to issue an injunction that would prevent her from deleting any of her messages. Judge Shluger ordered both parties to exchange passwords so that their lawyers could conduct discovery. Traystman says that he has looked over Stephen's Facebook account and feels his side has nothing to worry about. In anticipation that either party might abuse this new-found power, the judge's ruling included a stipulation that no party log in and post messages purporting to be from the account's owner.

Though we can see the reasoning behind the injunction, it's disturbing to know that we may one day be asked to hand over passwords for entire accounts so the opposition can search for evidence. As Forbes' Kashmir Hill points out, as part of a normal 'discovery,' a litigant is asked to turn over "responsive material" but not the keys to access that material and likely much more. It's a perfect example of how the change in the way we communicate and our online behavior is impacting legal proceedings.

Do you think the judge was right in his ruling? Let us know in the comments below!