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It is so easy today to fire off a post on any number of social media platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – that we sometimes forget to take the time to really consider what we are posting and our audience. We rarely think about the fact that our post will be there forever. That is why it is important to remember that you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy when you use the internet or social media today.

I learned a very valuable lesson early on in my career – be very mindful of what you put in writing. I had just finished law school but was working on the MA part of my JD/MA, so I did some contract attorney work in Washington, D.C. taking part in a large document review. I sat in a room with about 20 other attorneys and reviewed emails for several weeks straight. Included in the production were countless personal emails. Some were innocuous while others were…well let’s just say they were not flattering to the author or the recipient in some cases. I determined then that I would never put anything in email that I wouldn’t want a judge or even my mother to see. This has not always been easy, but with the inundation of emails we all suffer through daily, along with the rise of social media, it is more important than ever to be diligent with our written word.

This is why I was very pleased to see that this summer the Florida Bar published its “Best Practices for Effective Electronic Communication.” Although aimed directly at lawyers, this guide covers best practices that all professionals can learn from for a variety of electronic communications, including email, social media, texting, telephone, cell phone, and laptop/tablet usage in public and voicemails. The best practices guide covers many things that are common sense, but also provides some great taglines to keep you on your toes with daily electronic communication. For example, “[i]n general, if you would be ashamed to see it on a billboard, do not post it” and “[r]esponsible participation in social media is time-consuming.”

I have included here some of the tips from the guide. If you are interested, the whole guide is available on the Florida Bar website – and I encourage everyone to read it.

Texting:

  • Keep texts short
  • Longer texts can be misinterpreted
  • Sign a text with your name
  • Spell out all words and do not use “texting lingo” or shorthand
  • Texts can be saved and can be altered

Email:

  • Use a descriptive subject line
  • Be courteous
  • Reply promptly – but allow yourself time to get over an initial reaction to an angry email
  • Remember attachments to an email may contain metadata that can disclose unwanted information to the recipient   

Social Media:

  • There is no expectation of privacy on the internet
  • I repeat… there is no expectation of privacy on the internet.
  • Change your passwords frequently
  • Log off after visiting the page
  • Delete your browsing history, saved passwords and cookies regularly
  • Do not disparage anyone via social media
  • Educate yourself about a site before joining.

Phone calls

  • If you can’t devote your full attention to a call allow it to go to voicemail and return the call within a reasonable amount of time
  • When using a cell phone be mindful of where you are and what you are discussing to avoid inadvertent disclosure of confidential information to others.

Laptop/tablet usage in public

  • Use a virtual private security network (VPN) to connect remotely using a secure connection.
  • Keep your physical laptop/tablet secure
  • Be aware of your surroundings and use a privacy screen
  • Avoid free or unsecured Wi-Fi connections and always use a connection that encrypts your data.

The guide provides many more helpful tips. Again, if you take nothing else away from this article – remember that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy on the internet.

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