Skip to main content

Social media reminder

Keeping your personal and professional lives separate

posted Sept. 9, 2016

Social media sites like Facebook regularly suggest "people you may know" to their users, in order to encourage them to add more friends. These suggestions are generated by complex algorithms incorporating many elements, including your browsing patterns, geographic location, what you've "liked" and information you've provided, including your contact information. This is where it gets tricky.

User beware

Take this recent article about a psychiatrist who began noticing some of her patients were among the people Facebook was recommending as friends. She was baffled until she realized her patients all had her phone number in their cell phones, and an algorithm analysing all these records made a guess that these people were connected.

Why worry?

Accepting these Facebook friend recommendations could be crossing a professional boundary and/or breaching patient confidentiality.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp will start sharing your personal data with Facebook on Sept. 25. It’s recommended you turn off this feature on your mobile device before then.

What does this mean to me?

These are just two examples of why health care professionals must be mindful about using social media.   

Remember to:

  • Keep your work and personal contacts separate
  • Share only your work contact information with your patients, not your personal details
  • Avoid posting your work phone number to Facebook. This could result in your patients being asked to friend each other
  • Do not share your professional contact information or add patients as friends to your personal Facebook profile
  • If you are expected to interact in a professional capacity on Facebook, set up a separate profile
  • Regularly review your privacy settings on social media
  • Be vigilant when using new platforms or technologies
Home > Nursing standards > Announcements > 2016 > Social media reminder