I saw this story from my news source Naked Security this morning, and it set me thinking about just how important our social media presence is as professionals who have a client base.
In brief, a judge (yes, an actual County Judge) overseeing a troubling case about a man who allegedly imprisoned his 9-year old son as a punishment took to Facebook to comment on what was going on inside the courtroom. Her status updates included comments on items of evidence being submitted and links to news stories about the case. By doing so, she cast “reasonable doubt” on her own impartiality, and the defence team moved to have her struck from the case (successfully).
Now, without getting into a discussion about what her rights are under the USA First Amendment itself (which I don’t think any of us have time for at the moment), this story does give us an important reminder about the responsibilities we have to preserve the confidentiality of our clients, whatever our profession.
When you, as a professional, see something on the internet go viral, consider what the impact would be on your client if the same thing happened to your post, however well intentioned it was and however much you had thought you had disguised the client information. The nature of social media is in the title! It’s designed to be “social”. Therefore, what you post on social media isn’t meant to be a private observation about something – and if it can be shared, it runs the risk of being shared to people who know your client and can identify them. That’s the first consideration of confidentiality gone out of the window straight away.
I’ve seen colleagues on Facebook express relief in a status post when a “difficult” client cancels, and I’ve seen them note being late hitting the road to a client appointment the “morning after the night before!” These posts may be done flippantly, or even intended not to be taken entirely seriously (the second example included a winky, btw). But before you post anything to the unforgiving (and permanent) internet, remember what it will look like out of context and before a client complaints panel by your professional organisation. If you are in any doubt at all about the implications of what you are about to post – just don’t post it.
All our trainees taking our Certified Cyber Facilitator or Certified Cyber Therapist course get training in using social media as a mental health professional. If the story about the Texas Judge makes alarm bells ring about what you are putting out there on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN or any of the other social networks, please do consider joining them!