Former Gun Store Owner Jailed for Refusing to Surrender His Facebook Password
A conflict between the previous owner of a gun store and its new owner has moved into unexplored legal territory. Jeremy Alcede was the owner of Tactical Firearms in Katy, Texas when the company went bankrupt. The new owners insisted Alcede’s Facebook account should convey with the business. When the two parties could not agree, they went to court, and Alcede ended up in jail for seven hours.
The judge who heard the case at first ordered Alcede to surrender his password. When he refused to provide it, he was arrested for contempt of court. Alcede told KTRK-TV in Houston he believes the judge did not understand the finer points of social media, since his Facebook account is a personal page and not a business page.
When they said they wanted the Facebook, I explained to the attorney who was representing the company that there is no company Facebook page and there’s just my personal page. And I asked her to convey that to the judge, and obviously it wasn’t conveyed.
During the time Alcede still owned Tactical Firearms, he posted some outspoken political signs on the store, resulting in lots of online attention. He thinks that is why the new owners are eager to have access to his Facebook “friends.”
John Boyert, the new owner, told KTRK-TV:
At the point in time, he was an employee of the company and he was building that for the company regardless of who is owner or not.
This case is prompting high interest among users of social media, particularly business owners. When Alcede posted a link to a news article about the case, one Facebook friend commented, “If it is this page they’re trying to obtain access to, they cannot. It would violate Facebook’s terms of service: ‘4.8 You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.'”
The judge hearing the case has now appointed an outside administrator to count the number of business posts versus business posts. Once he has that information, he will make a ruling on who will ultimately own the Facebook page.
We are living in a new world of online social media. New legal issues are coming to the fore, and not just in cases involving terrorism, online bullying or cybercrimes. It is clear new ground is being broken in the area of business contracts, as well.