Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Facebook row girl's data wiped, court told

Information may have been permanently deleted from the shut-down Facebook account of a schoolgirl at the centre of a lawsuit brought by her father, the High Court in Belfast has heard.

A lawyer for the social networking giant also outlined difficulties in monitoring an attempt by the child to create a new profile on a site with close to a billion users.

Facebook is being sued over suggestive photos of the 12-year-old girl from Northern Ireland posted on the site.

Her father claims the material she posted places her in danger.

The legal action alleges that Facebook does not do enough to ensure members meet its own requirement to be over the age of 13.

A writ lodged in the case claims it has been negligent and should identify users who are too young or else be shut down.

Facebook has defended its safety controls and said it removes profiles of anyone discovered to be underage.

The case came before a High Court Master yesterday for a planned discovery application to secure material from a number of accounts the girl had set up.

Barrister Peter Girvan was seeking photographic content, information she had posted and privacy settings.

During the hearing, counsel for Facebook disputed claims by Mr Girvan's instructing solicitor, Hilary Carmichael, that one of the accounts was still active.

Paul McLaughlin said: “That is incorrect. The account in question was terminated on September 21.”

Mr McLaughlin also set out new instructions he had received about the potential status of the terminated accounts in question.

Stressing that this was not a definitive position, the barrister said: “It may be that all of the information on these accounts has been permanently deleted, in which case it might not be available under any route.”

At one stage Master McCorry questioned if there was a way to monitor the site to ensure the girl has not opened a new account.

Mr McLaughlin replied: “Facebook has a billion users. There are many who share the same name as the plaintiff.

“If she decided to establish another account she may use other names.”

The Master agreed to put the discovery application on hold to allow more time for the defendant to file an affidavit.

He told Mr Girvan: “(Given) the potential implications in terms of the operation of Facebook, the court has to be very careful to make sure they are given a proper opportunity to respond to your application.”

The case is due to return to court later this month.

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