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Requests for social network information were just a 'digital fishing expedition' says US judge

A construction company cannot access a workman's social network accounts because it has not given specific enough information about what might be found there to support its case, a US court has ruled.08 Apr 2011

A judge in New York said that 'digital "fishing expeditions" are no less objectionable than their analog antecedents.'

The ruling was made after a construction company argued that obtaining files could prove that injuries a workman sustained on a building site were not as serious as he had claimed.

Campa Construction Corporation argued it should be granted access to Pedro Caraballo's Facebook, Myspace and Twitter accounts, including to his deleted files.

The request was "overly broad" and not specific enough in what it was looking for, the court said.

Campa had argued that pictures, videos and posts on the sites were as important as medical records and that they could show Caraballo engaged in activities which would undermine claims about his injuries.Caraballo is suing Campa after a wall fell on top of him as he worked to connect sewer pipes in a trench.

Campa, the general contractors of the site, asked the judge to make a summary judgment, ruling that it was clear that responsibility for safety on the site belonged to Caraballo's direct employer, Able Island Plumbing Water Main & Sewer Ltd.

Judge Aliotta rejected that request because Campa could not prove it did not have ultimate responsibility for safety, including for the work by sub-contractors such as Able.

The owner of Campa had admitted to inspecting the site, so the issue could be disputed at a full trial, the judge said.