Courtesy of my talented guest blogger Jenn Burton
Social media has broken down barriers and given outsiders an inside look into other people’s lives. You can see your old classmates’ wedding photos. You can read a note from a nurse at your doctor’s office. You can see pictures of your boss’s 50th birthday party. You can see which pages your client “Liked” this week. It’s so invasive, isn’t it? Yet, we love it. We can’t help ourselves.
A site like Facebook so easily becomes a sort of journal – a place where we can vet any of our thoughts, opinions, experiences, photos and videos to see what others think. Generally only our closest friends write back, so it can be easy to forget just how many professional contacts and “lurkers” are watching what you write. It’s easy to forget that, even when you’re not at work, you’re still being judged by your work standards. This is the problem that a number of professionals are facing as their employers get hip to social networking.
On April 9th, 2010, four staff members at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, California took photos of a 60-year-old, nearly-decapitated stabbing victim and posted them on Facebook. He died shortly after the photo was taken. This incident was a gross violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects patients’ privacy.
Individuals working in the healthcare industry are now allowed to discuss a patient by name or physical description. It is certainly not permissible to post any confidential pictures or videos related to their work. They cannot give medical advice via social networks. And while they cannot go to jail or be fined up to $25,000 for complaining about their jobs, healthcare workers should be mindful of who might be watching what they write or they may wind up unemployed.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Police Department is also concerned about how the expansion of social media’s popularity among officers might affect their business. One officer was demoted to desk duty when it was discovered he had posted a photo of a sword-wielding suspect on his social media site.
Police departments are quickly making official policies to deal with activities that may reflect poorly on their squads. For instance, the Albuquerque Police Department prohibits officers from showing uniforms, patrol cars, badges or anything that identifies them as police officers on their personal social media sites. This ruling came after an officer who shot and killed a perpetrator listed his occupation as “human waste disposal” on Facebook. Officers were told they should assume that anything they post on their personal pages should be seen as a direct reflection on the police department and that violators can and will be fired if they do not heed this warning.
What do you think? Do employers have a right to dictate what can and can’t be posted on personal Facebook pages? Have you seen any questionable material posted by a so-called “professional” recently?