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Job Confidentiality in a Social Media World

job confidentiality social media
Brittany Spear
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Published on September 30, 2014

With the growth of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s become easier than ever to share your life with the World Wide Web. From where you work to what you ate for dinner last Tuesday night, the details of your life as you post them to these sites are available to the internet community. But what does this mean for your job and your career?

If you’re working in a field where confidentiality is key, namely the health or education fields, there are many facets of your work that you shouldn’t share on the internet so as to protect the privacy or well-being of your clients, patients, or students. Even if you don’t work within these fields, there are certain aspects of your job and career that are best left off of the internet, such as company policies or confidential projects and information.

To best secure the privacy of your customers and to best protect your company, here are some do’s and don’ts for how to manage job confidentiality in our over-sharing, social media world.

DO ask your employers if they have a confidentiality policy and what it entails.

Read it thoroughly so that you understand where the boundaries are, and ask questions if something seems unclear or contradictory.

DON’T use names of clients or patients online or offline without permission.

Instances of a client’s or patient’s name written on the internet can be found with a Google search and connected back to that person. Your patient or client is entitled to their privacy and should know and have given permission to have their name used in connection with you.

DO speak about your job/clients/patients in generalizations rather than specifics.

A good rule of thumb to follow is that any story told should not be able to be directly or quickly linked to the company or person you are discussing. Much like using names, generalizations in this aspect keep the privacy of your client or patient.

DON’T share funny but personal stories about your patients or clients.

Again, an outsider should not be able to identify the person you are talking about just by you telling the story.

DO consider your social media privacy settings.

Though anything on the internet has the possibility of becoming publicly seen, restricting the ease with which the public can access your updates or photos can help greatly reduce misconceptions and leaks. Caution should still be used on what you post – consider this as another protective layer.

DON’T post photos of clients or patients in a public online space without written permission.

If you are unable to defend that you have for permission, you are at risk for legal action, particularly if your pictures include minors. Photos can be a very explicit violation of a client’s or patient’s privacy if the photos are not used in approved settings.

If you’re ever in doubt about if your actions will breach job confidentiality, contact your employer with your questions to best protect the interests of your clients, your company, and yourself.

Brittany Spear

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