Showing off a luxurious lifestyle on social networks like Facebook, WeChat, Instagram, is quite popular. Many people can’t resist the temptation of sharing to the public their latest purchases, leisure holidays, fine dinners, expensive cars etc.: however, such vanity may lead to problems in Court. In Italy, some judicial cases recognized the information extracted on social networks’ profiles as valid evidence to ascertain undeclared incomes, for tax purposes and to quantify the amount of the maintenance allowance (e.g. after divorce).
This occurs due to the contents uploaded by users of social networks on their personal pages and profiles not being protected under the profile of confidentiality, contrary to private messages. The Italian case-law states that “even in the case where the access to these contents is restricted on the basis of the privacy settings of the user, all of the information and photos uploaded on a social profile are not deemed to be confidential, contrary to the private messages sent through the chat/messaging system provided by the same social network. In fact, where private messages can be considered as a form of private correspondence, and are thus fully protected from any disclosure, the information shared on a personal social profile are by their nature intended to be known by third parties (even including the ones limited in the circle of personal “friends” on the social network) and cannot be protected in the same extension: therefore, these contents are considered as freely accessible to third parties”. More precisely, “at the moment the information and photos are published on the dedicated page of a social profile, the user accepts the risk that these data can be brought to the knowledge of people outside his/her circle of “friends”, so that by the sole fact of their publication, they can be disclosed by third parties and used in Court” (Tribunal of S. M. Capua Vetere, decree 13 June 2013).
Therefore, it is not surprising that recently the Court of Appeals of Brescia ascertained the existence of activities such as “probable source of undeclared incomes”, on the basis of the data taken from a Facebook profile (v. judgment n. 1664/2017). Moreover, the Tribunal of Pesaro condemned an entrepreneur, with a declared income of 11.000 € per year, to pay a huge maintenance grant to his former wife on the assumption that his real income was significantly higher, as shown by the data taken from a social network, which included pictures of leisure holidays, luxury cars and motorbikes (see judgment n. 295/2015). Similar to this instance is the case of a divorced husband who appealed a sentence that ordered him to pay a maintenance grant to his former wife, on the assumption that he only had the money strictly sufficient to survive. The Court of Appeals of Ancona, on the basis of the photos taken by his Facebook profile, showed evidence of an intense social scene, with aperitifs, formal dinners and parties, rejected the appeal and ordered the husband to bear the costs of proceedings.
Everyone should be more careful in choosing the information to share on social networks. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.