by Brad Davenport

The way we use social media can have significant impacts on personal relationships, careers, and even impact the lives of others if little thought is given to what is posted or messaged or you are not familiar with the settings and features of the social media platforms used.  Of course, a little bit of common sense goes a long way in using social media.  While it may be tempting to rant about your boss or co-worker on social media, this is never a good idea.  Similarly, exercise good judgment and do not post too much personal information about yourself or your family, and refrain from posting anything embarrassing or inappropriate that could harm family or business relationships or even cause you to lose your job.  Be aware of privacy settings on the social media you use and check what settings you have activated.  Understand that even if you post something only to your “friends” group, if you tag someone else in a post, what you have shared may end up accessible to the world because your friend has a public profile with no privacy settings engaged.  Also, be aware that deleting posts and sending “self-destructing” messages or photos does not necessarily mean the posts, messages or photos are permanently deleted or destroyed.  Rather, you should count on someone with the technological skill, like a forensic computer expert, being able to retrieve deleted posts and supposedly self-destructed messages or photos in most instances.

              For schools and employers, social media presents its own challenges.  As administrators, familiarize yourself with applicable privacy laws.  Make sure that your school or company has a social media policy in place that governs the use of social media on school or company-owned computers, tablets, and devices.  Clearly identify the ownership of information viewed and stored on such devices.  Advise students and employees whether your IT department has the right to access and review social media and other activity on computers and devices you own or provide for their use.  Review your social media policy with legal counsel periodically and update it as technology evolves.  Most important, make your social media policy known and provide a copy to every student and employee regardless of how long they have been with you.

              Attorneys have obligations to clients, opposing counsel, and others regarding social media in addition to being aware of their personal use of social networking platforms.  As part of your client intake process, inquire of clients what social media they use and learn what they have shared on social media that may pertain to your representation of that client.  Advise clients about their use of social media on a “go-forward” basis, including how it could affect their case.  Keep in mind your client’s posts and messages on social media when responding to discovery requests asking for communications, correspondence and/or photographs pertaining to the subject matter of a case.  Be aware that an Oklahoma judicial advisory council ethics opinion, and similar opinions in other states, constrains judges from “friending” or “connecting” with attorneys, social workers, and law enforcement officers who regularly appear before them.  

              By learning and keeping informed about social media apps and how they work, employing common sense and exercising good judgment, you can enjoy the many benefits of this technology while avoiding its pitfalls.

For more information, please contact Brad Davenport at 272-9241 or Learn more about Brad here.

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