Social Data Discovery and Proportional Privacy

17 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2017

See all articles by Agnieszka McPeak

Agnieszka McPeak

Duquesne University School of Law

Date Written: January 23, 2017


Social media platforms aggregate large amounts of personal information as “social data” that can be easily downloaded as a complete archive. Litigants in civil cases increasingly seek out broad access to social data during the discovery process, often with few limits on the scope of such discovery. But unfettered access to social data implicates unique privacy concerns — concerns that should help define the proper scope of discovery.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended in 2015, already contain the tools for crafting meaningful limits on intrusive social data discovery. In particular, the proportionality test under Rule 26 weighs the burdens of discovery against its benefits, creating important boundaries on discovery’s scope. Privacy burdens should be part of the proportionality analysis. By considering the privacy implications of social data discovery, courts can fashion fair and meaningful limits on its scope.

Keywords: social media, civil discovery, privacy, social data, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, proportionality, Facebook

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, K39, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

McPeak, Agnieszka, Social Data Discovery and Proportional Privacy (January 23, 2017). Cleveland State Law Review, Vol. 65.1, 2016; University of Toledo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-04. Available at SSRN:

Agnieszka McPeak (Contact Author)

Duquesne University School of Law ( email )

600 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15282
United States

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