The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
“Don’t get fired for Facebook: 10 ways to use social media safely” at FireRescue1.com is written to help firefighters and EMS workers avoid getting into hot water at work, but what’s good for the paramedics is good for the paralegals, too.
But with this new societal free flow of “information sharing” comes legitimate patient privacy and business concerns for the public safety employer. Departments and agencies — both public and private alike — have a legitimate business interest to ensure that social networking is used in a way that does not violate patient confidentiality, harm the organization’s reputation and business interests, or interfere with the work of others.
How can you make sure that your online activities do not interfere with your job or work activities at your department or agency? The main thing is to always think about how others in your agency or the public would perceive your comment before you post it.
- No inappropriate pictures (One employer demanded that an employee remove an online photo of himself dressed as a marijuana leaf. You can actually buy this costume, and the distributor even kind of warns you in the ad copy, blithely assuring the buyer, “You can really be up in smoke with this costume.” Doh.)
- No complaining about work (A British teenager lost her office job after posting “I’m so totally bored!” on Facebook. Maybe she totally didn’t mind losing that job…)
- No inappropriate status updates (See No. 2)
- Don’t friend everybody – be very selective with who can see your information.
- Don’t ignore your privacy settings – can several hundred thousand people access your Facebook profile? They can if your default settings allow everyone in your college or city networks to see your profile.
- Don’t rule out using a professional profile instead of your personal profile for business purposes.
- Don’t use social media at work, unless it’s for approved marketing or business purposes.
- Don’t post information that is inconsistent with what your employer knows about you. A mistake that has busted both layman and lawyer alike is calling in sick (or even worse, falsely bereaved) – and then posting a status about awesome Ferris Bueller’s Day Off activities. (What Ferris pulled off in 1986 might be impossible in 2010 with the ubiquitous smart phone recording his every real-time move while instantly uploading the evidence to social media sites.)
- Don’t try to hide behind fake screen names – the more uninhibited you feel, the greater your risk of making a career-ending mistake.
- Don’t violate copyright laws. In particular, don’t quote more than short excerpts of someone else’s work. Give credit where credit is due, by citing and linking to the original source.