Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JUNE 2010

Managing Your Practice

Social Media Safety:
Avoiding Pitfalls in the Kingdoms of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
By Sheila Blackford

Social networking continues to expand in mind-boggling numbers. The three main social networks are kingdoms unto themselves. Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/ ) has more than 400 million active users and more than 1.5 million local businesses that have active pages on Facebook. LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/ ) claims to be the world’s largest professional network with more than 65 million members in 200 countries, half outside U.S. borders. Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/ ) helps businesses connect to their customers in real-time “tweets,” up to 140 characters at a time. Think micro-blogging; think a quarter billion tweets a day from the million people with Twitter accounts being followed.

These are three of the most popular social networking forums. You may yet to have finished creating your LinkedIn profile, ignored requests to become a friend on Facebook, or wondered if being followed on Twitter was akin to becoming a victim of cyber-stalking. Don’t be intimidated.

Yes, there are some amazing power users out there, including three mentioned by Niki Black (twitter.com/nikiblack) and Carolyn Elefant (twitter.com/carolynelefant) in their January 2010 ABA Law Practice TODAY article, http://www.abanet.org/lpm/lpt/articles/ftr01102.shtml ” They write of “David Barrett, who describes himself as ‘the most linked-in lawyer in the world’ with over 12,000 connections on LinkedIn; solo lawyer Richard Vetsein who gathered 600 fans for his law firm’s Facebook Fan Page in a matter of weeks; or Rex Gradeless, a recent law grad who has over 73,000 followers on Twitter.”

Some active social media people say ignore these sites at your own peril because your clients are already there. For the sake of this article, I say ignore understanding ethical obligations while social networking at your own peril. Even if you are already active with social media, keep reading. For instance, reread Deputy General Counsel Helen Hierschbiel’s column in the November 2009 Bulletin, https://www.osbar.org/publications/bulletin/09nov/barcounsel.html

Safety Tips for Enjoying the Social Networking Kingdoms
According to security software company Sophos (http://www.sophos.com ), two-thirds of businesses they have researched fear that social networking endangers corporate security, and one in four companies reports attacks via social networking sites. Sophos also reports that malware and spam rise 70 percent on social networks. Scary. Where to begin to protect yourself? Start with the privacy policy. All social networking sites have privacy policies. They are the first thing you should read. Read Facebook’s privacy policy (http://tinyurl.com/38cj85) and Twitter’s privacy policy (http://twitter.com/privacy ). Additionally, there is a helpful “Guide to Privacy on Facebook” page at that will help you to understand and set the proper controls for how you will share information on Facebook.

Privacy Settings are Critical

Facebook Privacy Settings
Consider that you have three levels of privacy on Facebook: Friends, Friends of Friends and Everyone Else. First, your Facebook privacy settings are critical. This is not the place to accept default settings. Think “visible to everyone,” and now change those default settings to ensure the privacy you want. To review and change your privacy settings, go to the upper right-hand corner of the Facebook window and select the “Account” button. On the drop-down menu, select “Privacy Settings.”

1. Privacy Setting: Your Profile Information. Who gets to see the various items on your profile? Do you want to allow friends to post on your wall? Who can see posts by your friends on your profile? Who can comment on posts you create? Such decisions! Of course, the answer to any of these is, it depends. Remember your options of Friends, Friends of Friends and Everyone? You also have a “Customize” option, which allows you to block certain individuals from certain information even though they are otherwise friends. If you have any hesitation about a Facebook friend, use the customize feature. Also, if you also are friends with clients, you may not want to expose your clients to all of the posts by your other friends. Or maybe there is one friend whose posts you just don’t want other friends to see. If you don’t want to de-friend a friend or client, you can restrict access with the customize option for every single privacy setting. You can also address the issue of religious and political views. You can also restrict information about family and relationship (“Family Members, Relationship Status, Interested In and Looking For”); a failure to do so is likely why Facebook records have been of interest in some divorce proceedings. Customizing privacy settings takes time, but promotes a good night’s sleep.

2. Privacy Setting: Your Contact Information. Who do you want to be able to see your instant message screen name? Or your cell phone number? Your physical address or website address? Who can send you a message from search results and your profile? I would recommend that you restrict these to Friends or Friends of Friends. If you allow Everyone to send you e-mails, be prepared that your e-mail inbox will begin to fill with some puzzling messages.

3. Privacy Setting: Applications and Websites. Facebook says this is where you control what information is available to Facebook-enhanced applications and websites. It may not bother you, but Facebook Applications will access your Facebook information in order to make recommendations such as restaurants. This is advertising, plain and simple. This next option you should carefully consider. “When you visit a Facebook-enhanced application or website, it may access any information you have made visible to Everyone as well as your publicly available information. This includes your Name, Profile Picture, Gender, Current City, Networks, Friend List and Pages.” Because Friend Lists are shared, your name might be disclosed because one of your friends is using the Facebook application. If you do not want you friends to share your information when they are using a Facebook application that you do not use, adjust your setting on the item, “What your friends can share about you through applications and websites.”

4. Privacy Setting: Blocked Applications. Facebook will list applications you have blocked. Each application offering in Facebook has a “Block Application” option. I wish Facebook listed all of them on the Privacy Settings. You have to search and block.

5. Privacy Setting: Ignore Application Invites. Facebook allows you to ignore application invitations from specific friends. These invitations may be annoying. If so, make an adjustment here.

6. Privacy Setting: Search. Facebook allows you to control who can see your search result in Facebook and search engines. I would expect you would want to be discovered. But if not, set that to block the search result.

7. Privacy Setting: Block List. Facebook allows you to have a blocked list controlling who can interact with you on Facebook.

8. Post Lock. You can control privacy settings every time you post a status update on Facebook or upload a photo, just look for the lock icon, click, then decide who will able to see your post: friends, friends of friends or everyone. Simple, but often overlooked.

Some Additional Facebook Account Settings You Should Adjust
To review and change your account settings, go to the upper right-hand corner of the Facebook window and select the “Account” button. On the drop-down menu, select “Account Settings.”

1. Your Name. Use your real name, not a pseudonym. Really. ORPC 8.4(a) prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. Take care not to engage in deception online.

2. Your Username. You don’t get much choice of a user name but you can change it. I was really surprized to find out that I am not the only Sheila Blackford on Facebook!

3. Your E-mail. You want to be notified. Use a valid e-mail address that you will check. Don’t just create one for Facebook and ignore ever checking for messages.

4. Your Password. Change your password from time to time. Some advocate using the same password for all of your social media accounts. I’m sure these people also leave their key under the mat. If you can’t remember them all, use a software password protection program that will remember them for you like Roboform (http://www.roboform.com).

5. Your Linked Accounts. This does not strike me as a good idea. Why would I want to be automatically logged onto Facebook when logged into Google or MySpace or Yahoo?

6. Your Security Question. You might want to change your security question from time to time if you tend to use the same questions everywhere.

7. Your Privacy Settings. This is huge. You can control privacy settings every time you post a status update on Facebook or upload a photo; just look for the lock icon.

8. Deactivate Account. This is the big delete if you want to remove yourself from Facebook.

9. Notifications. This is found at the top of the Account Settings. To be safe, you will likely want to be notified in most of the situations listed. I recommend that you be notified if anyone tags you in a picture — meaning they’ve posted a picture and have identified you as being in the photo. The same for posts, notes and videos. Also when they comment on something you’ve posted or a wall comment. Some of these notifications can also be sent to your cell phone by SMS (a form of text-message).

LinkedIn Privacy Settings
To review and change your account settings, go to the upper right-hand corner of the LinkedIn window and select the “Settings” button and look at the category “Privacy Settings.”

1. Privacy Setting: Research Surveys. LinkedIn allows you to set whether to receive marketing research surveys based on your professional expertise. This looks like advertising to me with a survey tacked onto it. What is your billable rate? Now indicate you are a busy attorney.

2. Privacy Setting: Connections Browse. Do you want a connection to be able to browse who are all your other connections? And who are their connections? The benefit of LinkedIn is the opportunity to network. By seeing who are also connected to our connections, we can widen our network. A benefit of networking is to ask a connection for an introduction to another connection. LinkedIn is all or nothing. Either all your connections can browse your connections list, or they all cannot. You will likely want Linke dIn connections to be able to view your connection list.

3. Privacy Setting: Profile Views. If you view a profile of someone on LinkedIn, do you want that person to see your name and headline, or an anonymous industry profile or nothing?

4. Privacy Setting: View Profile Photos. You will likely want to view profile photos — it helps to connect the name with the face.

5. Privacy Setting: Profile and Status Updates. LinkedIn allows you to control whether your connections are notified when you update your status and profile changes and whether those changes also appear on your company’s profile. The nice thing about LinkedIn is it lets you keep up to date on your connections. Finally, you can find out your connection was promoted and can send a congratulatory message. If you have ever wished you would have known something everyone else seems to know, you will be pleased to get these updates the next time you run into your connection at a conference.

6. Privacy Setting: Service Provider Directory. If you are recommended as a service provider, you will be listed. Give some recommendations about your connections. Ask some of your connections for recommendations.

7. Privacy Setting: Partner Advertising. Do you want to be shown LinkedIn Audience Network Advertising on partner websites? Unless you are really tired, you will pause at this one. Threshold question: do you first want those partners to know about you? You may not care about the advertising; you may only care about connections.

8. Privacy Setting: Authorized Applications. Pay attention to this one. See a list of all websites and applications you have granted access to your LinkedIn Account and control that access. Okay, exercise some control here.

Twitter Privacy Settings
Twitter takes the view that you want to share information with the world. This includes tweets and the actual metadata of your tweets when you tweeted. It also lets others see any lists you’ve created, the people you follow and your favorites. Your public tweets are very public. As Twitter says in its privacy policy, “your public Tweets are searchable by many search engines and are immediately delivered via SMS and our APIs to a wide range of users and services. You should be careful about all information that will be made public by Twitter, not just your tweets.”

To review and change your account settings, go to the upper right-hand corner of the Twitter window and select the “Settings” button.

1. Privacy Setting: E-mail. Twitter gives you the opportunity to let people find you by your e-mail address, but note that your e-mail address will not be publicly displayed.

2. Privacy Setting: Location. Twitter lets you add a location to your tweets and to turn it off. There are some safety reasons you might not want people to know where you are tweeting from — the neighborhood or exact point may be too much information. You can switch on and off before a tweet and then you can delete your location history.

3. Privacy Setting: Tweet Privacy. Twitter will allow you to tweet off of the public timeline that everyone and anyone can see on Twitter. Some lawyers only want their actual clients to see their tweets. Previously posted tweets may still be viewable some places.

There are some settings that you may want to adopt so that you can avoid any pitfalls as you enter the social networking kingdoms of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. As you go forth, remember that your ethical obligations follow you. Think of the Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct as the rules of the road, and you’ll fare well on your journey.

Editor’s note: As this issue of the Bulletin was going to press, Facebook announced several changes to its privacy controls. Promised changes include: aggregation of privacy settings into a single, simple control; blocking unwanted visitors to profiles; and blocking third-party applications from personal information. These changes were not available for review at press time.


Sheila Blackford is a practice management adviser with the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund. Reach her at (503) 639-6911 or by e-mail at sheilab@osbplf.org.

© 2010 Sheila Blackford

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