In testimony to Congress the week before last, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a point of emphasizing that if you’re a Facebook user, you own your information. This is meant to reassure users, but it is more than a little misleading. “Your information” is what you personally have uploaded to Facebook. You do not own what other people have uploaded about you. That’s what has privacy advocates so concerned. It’s also why even therapists who don’t use Facebook should be worried about the client confidentiality risks that the company poses.
Therapists and counselors have been expressing concern for some time now that Facebook can “out” their clients to other clients, even when the therapist or counselor has not done anything to facilitate the connection. It can happen even when the therapist or counselor doesn’t use Facebook. Thanks to some good reporting by Gizmodo Media, we now have a better understanding of how that happens. We also now know just how little you can do to stop it.
The whole article “How Facebook figures out everyone you’ve ever met” is really worth your time. Here, I’ll just share some of the pieces most relevant to counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals. For us, if even just a few of your clients use Facebook, the likelihood of keeping all your therapeutic relationships truly confidential is near zero.