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Facebook and Twitter used to track hidden wealth in divorce cases

June 12 2014

Social media sites are being used by lawyers to look for evidence of hidden wealth during divorce proceedings, a top lawyer has revealed.

Websites such as Facebook and Twitter, which contain masses of personal data, are being increasingly used to collect evidence to try and recover assets from lying ex-spouses.

Fraud and asset recovery specialist Steven Philippsohn told the Daily Telegraph that lawyers can apply for court orders for disclosure of private information from people’s Facebook and Twitter profiles without the defendant being informed.

The information can give important insights into whether a person has lied to the court about their wealth and provide clues as to where they might be hiding it.

English law usually gives such court orders precedence over normal privacy laws when fraud is suspected such as in the case of a divorcing party attempting to hide their wealth.

Mr Philippsohn, of PCB Litigation, said: “The mass of personal information online has made it easier for people to get caught out by their partners or husbands and wives doing things they shouldn’t and it has made our job much easier too.

“It is not so much word of mouth anymore, people write to each other and about each other more than ever before in texts, emails, on social media, and we as lawyers can look for evidence among this.

“There might be an argument or disagreement said between two people which you will never be able to prove but if it is there in black and white on the internet that will make it easier in regard to any court application.

“Cases where we are retaining and retrieving assets have improved substantially.”

The disclosure orders can apply to any company or organisations holding information that may be relevant to a fraud investigation.

“Past experience suggests that the introduction of any new form of social media is invariably followed by disclosure and search orders to obtain material evidence from that source,” Mr Philippsohn added.

“People’s social media information can now be used to detect the assets or anything in relation to the assets and where they have gone that might be relevant.”

Twitter states it will only give out private information about Twitter users to law enforcement agencies where a court order or subpoena is provided.

“Non-public information about Twitter users will not be released to law enforcement except in response to appropriate legal process such as a subpoena, court order, or other valid legal process – or in response to a valid emergency request, as described below,” its guidelines read.

Facebook did not respond to the Daily Telegraph’s requests for information about its position on the issue of disclosure orders.