In an order issued this month, a federal judge refused a request by Chase Bank to serve legal papers on an alleged identity thief via facebook. The case at issue involves a daughter who allegedly used her mother’s identity to obtain a credit card from Chase and subsequently ran up charges of $1,243. To date, Chase has been unable to locate the daughter to serve her notice of the pending lawsuit. The detective who was hired to find her found four possible addresses as well as a facebook profile. When they were unable to find the daughter at any of the addresses, Chase asked the judge for permission to use an alternative method of service – facebook – to serve her. In rejecting the request, the judge said service via facebook is “unorthodox to say the least” and directed Chase to instead place ads in local newspapers.

Iowa’s rule regarding alternative methods of service provides that service can be made in “any manner consistent with due process of law prescribed by order of the court in which the action is brought.” To the best of my knowledge, there have been no cases in Iowa in which a court has authorized service via facebook; however, based on my reading of the rule it could happen. Courts in Australia, New Zealand and England have allowed service via facebook. It will be interesting to see if Iowa follows suit as the use of social media continues to grow.