Superpoked and served: Facebook used in legal wrangle

A court in Australia has approved the use of Facebook, a popular social networking website, to notify a couple that they lost their home after defaulting on a loan repayment.

The Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court last Friday approved lawyer Mark McCormack’s application to use Facebook to serve the legally binding documents after several failed attempts to contact the couple at their house and by email.

Australian courts have given permission in the past for people to be served via email and SMSes when it was not possible to serve them in person.

McCormack, a lawyer for the lender the couple borrowed from, said that by the time he got the documents approved by the court late on Tuesday, Facebook profiles for the couple had disappeared from public view.

The page was apparently either closed or secured for privacy, following publicity about the court order.

”It’s somewhat novel, however, we do see it as a valid method of bringing the matter to the attention of the defendant,” McCormack said.

Despite the setback, McCormack said the Facebook attempt would help his client’s case that all reasonable steps had been taken to serve the couple.

A court is expected to settle the matter early as next week.

Facebook has become a wildly popular online hangout, attracting more than 140 million users worldwide since it launched in 2004.

Facebook friends can ”poke” or ”superpoke” each other — terms for giving someone a playful nudge.

Lawyer and computer forensic expert Seamus Byrne said he was aware of only one similar case in Australia.

A Queensland District Court judge ruled in April against documents being served by Facebook because the option of contacting a person via post had not yet been exhausted.

In the latest ruling Master David Harper insisted that the documents be attached to a private email sent via Facebook that could not be seen by others visiting the pages.

McCormack said he and a colleague found the woman’s Facebook page using personal details that she had given the lender, including her birth date and email address.

The man was listed on her page as a friend. Prior to Tuesday, neither had imposed security options that deny strangers access to their pages.

McCormack said he did not bother searching for the couple through any other social networking sites.

”It’s one of those occasions where you feel most at home with what you know and I myself have a Facebook account,” McCormack said. — Sapa-AP

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