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.
Facebook is a great resource for gathering information. Often, and for the right reasons, we turn to social media in hopes of gathering information we need in a short period of time and with little effort. But for therapists going to social media with legal questions, that convenience may not be worth it. Many of the answers therapists give peers for legal questions on Facebook are incorrect.
We reviewed 20 recent posts that included legal questions in therapist groups on Facebook. We looked strictly at legal questions where there was a clear correct answer that we could easily reference. So anything requiring interpretation of law was purposefully left out. Our review was by no means comprehensive — it falls more closely in bar-napkin-math territory. But we still think this quick review offers some valuable information.
As we put a bow on the end of 2017 and look ahead to the new year, many of us make resolutions, or plans, or promises. We make commitments for the year ahead in hopes of living our personal and professional lives that much closer to our ideals. One resolution I make each year is to update my office paperwork.
My informed consent always needs a few updates to reflect my changing practice. As I get older, I see each day a greater importance to having a Professional Will. And with technology changing so quickly around us, this year I knew I needed to add policies around social media as well.
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.
Issues of race in the US routinely boil over into violence. Charlottesville is only the latest example. Before that, there was Charleston. And Charlotte. And Ferguson. And Baltimore. After each one, there is a wave of questioning on social media amounting to, “Why aren’t more white people speaking out about this?”
Some of that questioning comes from well-meaning and legitimately confused white people. Some of it comes from people of color who are tired of seeing senseless death after senseless death be forgotten with each new news cycle.
The problem with white people sharing on Facebook that they are against racism and racial hatred is that it’s an empty gesture. It reaffirms the individual’s beliefs to people who probably already share them. It becomes a circle of self-congratulation where white people get to reassure each other about how woke we all are. It feels good and does nothing.