5 ways to stay safe on Facebook

If you keep in mind these simple tips, you won't go wrong

By now, you must know that the Internet is forever — like herpes. There is no privacy and there are no take-backs. The Internet, particularly social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, doesn't care if you are upset or just venting; it does not care if you are having a bad day or just tired.

Likewise, the Internet does not care about your motives. Your posting of the decapitated traffic collision victim may have a legitimate training purpose, but the Internet does not care and neither does the family of the victim.

However, if you keep in mind these simple tips, you won't go wrong:

1. Privacy settings, like Santa Claus or legroom in coach, are a myth. There is NO privacy on the Internet. What you say to one, you say to all. 

2. Deleting a post, video or photograph does not guarantee that it's gone. Volumes of deleted content still roams free on the Web. If you don't believe me, just ask Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, Vanessa Hudgins or Anthony Weiner.

3. There is no such thing as anonymous. You may be able to hide for a while, but ultimately, with today's technology, fake names, false personas and other such efforts to conceal your identity online will invariably lead back to you.

4. When it comes to posting anything work-related, if you wouldn't be comfortable reading it to or sharing it with your child's fifth grade class or your mother's book club, then maybe it's better left un-posted.

5.  When it comes to posting anything non-work-related, consider this: your boss, your boss's boss, and your boss's boss's boss are all going to see it, too.

What the law says
To be perfectly candid, as it relates to free speech, the law is not quite sure what it thinks yet.

The First Amendment is alive and well, yet there are legitimate questions about whether it applies in all circumstances. The biggest question, which has recently reared its head in the courts, is whether the freedom of speech is modified when one is speaking from work as opposed to speaking from home.

There is the ongoing case of the firefighter in Massachusetts who was fired after posting disparaging remarks on Facebook while on duty. There is also the recent case of the paramedic in Connecticut who won a wrongful termination settlement after she was fired for Facebook posts she made from home.

There are cases popping up all over the country about EMS providers who have been disciplined, terminated and even arrested for work-related content they have uploaded to the Internet.

On the other hand, when it comes to privacy and confidentiality, the law is crystal clear: If a provider who learns confidential or private information in the course of his or her duty and subsequently shares that information online, he or she will be exposed to a myriad of departmental, administrative, civil and potentially criminal consequences.

Believe me when I tell you that the various penalties are stiff.

At the end of the day, managing social media and its plethora of issues comes down to this: common sense. If you wouldn't want to be the subject of your post because no good can come of it or, it is hurtful or vengeful or just plain mean, then take a deep breath, count to 10 and move on with your life.

If EMS is a profession and not just a job, the more we act like professionals the more professionally we will be treated.

About the author

David Givot, Esq., graduated from the UCLA Center for Prehospital Care (formerly DFH) in June 1989 and spent most of the next decade working as a Paramedic responding to 911 in Glendale, CA, with the (then BLS only) fire department. By the end of 1998, he was traveling around the country working with distressed EMS agencies teaching improved field provider performance through better communication and leadership practices. David then moved into the position of director of operations for the largest ambulance provider in the Maryland. Now, back in Los Angeles, he has earned his law degree and is a practicing Defense Attorney still looking to the future of EMS. In addition to defending EMS Providers, both on the job and off, he has created TheLegalGuardian.com as a vital step toward improving the state of EMS through information and education designed to protect EMS professionals - and agencies - nationwide. David is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. David can be contacted via e-mail at david.givot@ems1.com.

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