Back on November 5th, we discussed how creditors have begun to use Facebook to keep track of and contact debtors. Today, we are going to talk about how this very issue will soon be addressed by Florida courts.
Yesterday, it was reported that an Orlando, Florida woman has sued a debt collection company for invasion of privacy and violations of Florida's consumer protection law. The woman claims that the company did this is many ways, including making excessive phone calls and disturbing her at her place of work. In addition to these more traditional claims, she also argues that her rights were violated by the company's use of Facebook to contact her about her debt problems.
The woman in question owed money on a car loan. She claims that the collection company used Facebook in a couple different ways to harass her about her unpaid loan. First, she argues that they used the website's message feature to contact her directly about the loan. Secondly, they allegedly used the website to track down her family members and contact them.
The woman involved was extremely upset by the company's use of Facebook in trying to get her to pay her loan. Her lawyer referred to the company's actions as "invasion of privacy on steroids."
As we mentioned in our previous post, the internet and social media have made it far easier for companies like collection firms to get information on a debtor. This new technology gives rise to many important questions. Where is the line between acceptable use of technology to find information and cyber-harassment? Is it the court's job to restrict a creditor's ability to use these new methods to track debtors? Or is it a debtor's responsibility to be more careful about what he or she puts online?
This case gets to the heart of many of these issues, as it directly involves use of the internet to contact and gain personal information about a debtor. It will definitely be worth keeping track of how the court addresses these issues when they hear the case in January.
Source: The Orlando Sentinel, "Woman sues debt collector over Facebook messages," Tamara Lush, Nov 18, 2010