Facebook and Social Media Rules: An Ounce of Common Sense is Worth a Pound of Prevention

Pick any high profile news story and follow it for one day. Within 24 hours, the media will show you a picture of the person upon whom the story is focused. Within a few hours after that point, the media will publish details of their life including the names of their relatives, their hometown, their hobbies and many other items of personal information. Many times, the source of this information is Facebook and other social media sites.

Now I am a big proponent of LEOs using Facebook and other forms of social media. The reason is simple: you should not sacrifice your First Amendment rights and your freedom to associate in the most common forms of interaction just because you are a public servant. LEOs have enough restrictions placed upon them. Few professions and few professionals would survive if their “off-duty” conduct was subject to scrutiny and any missteps would lead to their dismissal. However, with rights come responsibilities and LEOs must take precautions to ensure that they are using social media wisely to protect their professional images, their careers, and the safety of themselves and their families.

So, a few absolutes. First, NEVER post your date of birth or home address on social media. Second, use the privacy settings to limit access to your site. This includes making ALL of your content private and allowing only friends and family to access your site. Third, do not allow people to post on your site without your approval. This will prevent your friend from tagging you in a picture that should never have been taken in the first place. Fourth, use the front page test; would I care if my comment, photo, “like,” “share,” or other post appeared on the front page of the local paper? If the answer is “NO!” then keep it off your site.

Common sense goes a long way. Learn to use the tools the sites provide to protect yourself. Remember, what happens in Vegas, ends up on Facebook!

Stay safe.

Pick up a copy of Lance’s book, “When Cops Kill: The Aftermath of a Critical Incident” at www.whencopskill.com. All profits will benefit law enforcement charities.

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