In the latest episode of a long legal battle, Paul Ceglia, a man that claims he owns half of Facebook, claimed the company's lawyers committed an "egregious and massive violation" of his privacy by publishing his e-mail passwords. Facebook's lawyers have countered by claiming Ceglia's lawyers are the ones at fault and that Palo Alto did nothing to violate his privacy.
Ceglia's filing notes Facebook's lawyers included passwords to his Web-based e-mail accounts in a court document filed on September 1 in federal court in Buffalo, New York. Ceglia was ordered to hand over his email address and log-in information. Court documents show, however, that he gave them to Facebook in his own declaration, which he himself did not designate as confidential.
Here's the relevant excerpt from court documents filed by Facebook:
Second, he makes the bizarre and unfounded claim that Defendants improperly obtained his email account and password information from Stroz Friedberg and then purportedly "disclosed" it by attaching his "consent form" to their motion to compel. Ceglia conceals from the Court the fact that his lawyers provided this exact information directly to Defendants — and that his lawyers never designated the information as confidential.
On August 18, the court ordered Ceglia to provide access to his web-based email accounts by August 29. This latest claim was Ceglia's fourth attempt to postpone handing over the details, according to court documents.
The papers were removed from the public file the next day and the login credentials were thus visible to the public for 12 hours. Ceglia, who is now living in Ireland, has since changed the passwords, according to his lawyers Paul Argentieri and Jeffrey Lake. They also said they intend to ask the court for sanctions and attorney fees.
Last month, Facebook charged that Ceglia has been withholding electronic devices from the court. The company asked US Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio to force Ceglia to turn computers, files, and e-mails.
Two months ago, Facebook said it found "smoking-gun evidence that the purported contract at the heart of this case is a fabrication." When Facebook's lawyers asked for a resubmittal of a document to the court due to improper redaction, it turned out the blacked out text referred to an "authentic contract" and "storage devices" that Facebook says Ceglia is intentionally hiding from the company, in violation of a court order.
Facebook said it found the original "authentic contract" between Mark Zuckerberg and Paul Ceglia. Facebook then produced said contract, noting it doesn't even mention Facebook at all. Not only did the social networking giant reportedly find this allegedly genuine contract on Ceglia's computer but on the e-mail servers of a Chicago-based law firm, Sidley Austin as well. Facebook alleges that Ceglia e-mailed the original contract to Sidely Austin back in 2004.
Foschio said Ceglia must allow Facebook's experts to examine his Web-based e-mail accounts (this is how the passwords were exposed), which he said he used to communicate with Zuckerberg in 2003 and 2004 and later saved on floppy disks. Only then will Zuckerberg be required to turn over 175 e-mails from his Harvard University account. Ceglia and his team have been waiting for those e-mails for weeks and once again they have hit a setback: they must wait until five days after Ceglia hands over his electronic material.
Originally, Ceglia's lawyers said the "authentic contract" is shielded from use in the lawsuit because it is designated as "confidential" under the rules of an agreement between the two parties. As a result, Facebook asked Foschio to overrule that designation; he agreed and ordered Ceglia to hand over documents Facebook says proves he forged the 2003 contract.
As for the "storage devices," Facebook said that forensic data shows evidence of six USB devices, which it argues were likely used to modify the authentic contract. The company's lawyers say at least one of those devices includes a folder called "Facebook Files" and an image called "Zuckerberg Contract page1.tif." Facebook believes that image is the page of the contract that was forged to include mention of an investment in the social network.
In an exclusive interview with ZDNet, Ceglia told me the original "authentic contract" Facebook says it found is really just a Photoshopped image the company planted on his computer. He says he and his lawyers reportedly knew about it for some time and willingly handed it over to Facebook. He told ZDNet that his team will prove the image in question "has no authenticating properties whatsoever."
Ceglia speculates it could have been Zuckerberg himself, or the US law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe that may have done the alleged dirty work. Ceglia called Zuckerberg "an admitted forger and an admitted hacker" and explained that Zuckerberg, or someone representing him, carelessly wrote his home address on the allegedly forged document that he didn't know about or move to until more than a year after the document was supposedly written.
Last but certainly not least, Ceglia says he has conclusive proof that Zuckerberg is lying. He said that anyone with some legal expertise or technical expertise willing to help "nail him down for good" is welcome to join at PaulsCase.com, which requires registration. Via the PaulsCase wiki, Ceglia is trying to open source his lawsuit. His current lawyer is on an interim basis and Ceglia is looking for a more "collaborative" law firm to work with him.
Facebook acknowledges that Ceglia hired Zuckerberg to work for his StreetFax company in April 2003 while Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard. Ceglia first legally attacked Facebook in July 2010, saying the contract also included $1,000 initial funding for Facebook, and that he's entitled to more than half of the social networking giant. That last part Facebook is obviously disputing.
Facebook insists Ceglia is a known con artist. Since he first filed suit, Ceglia has been dropped by at least four law firms. He is now living in Galway, Ireland, but the lawsuit is continuing. Ceglia, who called ZDNet from Ireland, maintains that he has been unfairly painted as a con artist.