Generally when you talk to someone about the notion of privacy on social media you get one of two reactions. Either you get “well there is no privacy there, so it’s all public, right.” Or, you get “I am so creeped out by what people are doing with it.” I probably have a combination of those two thoughts running around my head. In psychology circles this is known as cognitive dissonance.
There is no expectation of privacy in social, just not for the reasons you think
First of all, this notion of privacy expectations is really against governmental intrusion. The idea that you have no expectation of privacy is related generally to searches and the like. That is the reason why you get articles like “you have no expectation of privacy to your mobile location.” With private entities, there is no such thing.
That being said, you did post in a public setting. Saying something on Twitter is no different than posting it on a wall in the town square. The problem is when you think it is not. Perhaps you thought your direct message was private, or your wall settings were set so that only your friends saw it. In either case, you think it is one thing. Than it possibly turns out to be different. That is where it gets hard.
It just feels wrong what people do, and it might hurt
What happens when your healthcare provider looks up your social media postings to make a determination as to your suitability for a treatment. You were on the transplant list and then you said something, or perhaps a friend said it, and all of a sudden you are not.
If you think this is far-fetched, I direct your attention to this article from last week. Your providers are wrestling with this. Much like employers are wrestling with the notion of looking at it. Right now neither have a duty to look. I am waiting for the day when the courts create such a duty.
Social media as primary research?
I think there is a balancing that can be made here which will allow well-meaning and well-intentioned searching. The problem is that most of these examples of creepy social media searching and privacy expectations seem to be centered around using social media as a primary source.
If you look at postings and deny someone because a post has them still drinking after being on the transplant list, that is what I call using it as primary research. With no verification, I think you are wrong. If you used it as the impetus to ask again, or to check (say with a blood test), I think that is ok.
The problem with social media as a primary source is that it is unreliable. Was the post something I said? Was it something someone else said? Is it a picture of me appearing to drink a beer? You have no ability to verify. You can ask, and perhaps research even more. That is called due diligence.
I also think this is no different from seeing someone at a bar when you are out on your own. In that way, social media is no different than the real world. If the provider sees a patient out in public and asks questions based on that, that is ok, isn’t it. I would expect providers over the years to have been doing this. In small villages in days of yore didn’t the local doctor use their own powers of observation to provide care? Social media is just the village of today.
The village is larger today
The reality with social and the internet is that the world has shrunk on us. Today, you are as connected to someone halfway across the globe as you were to your distant neighbor in your small agricultural village. The connections to each other are so much easier to make, and the information is so much more permanent.
The flip side of this is that now we choose to be connected to people around us. We have moved from tribes of chance to tribes of choice. The downside is that all of our tribes of chance are talking to each other. I think while we have all been open to sharing, I wonder if there will ever be a backlash where people share less because of what they perceive as intrusive.