Are You Practicing Safe Social Media?

Therese Lockemy is the Internet Marketing Manager for Johns Hopkins Medicine. She pulls from her passion, experience and love of the social and digital space to develop and execute online strategies that help Johns Hopkins Medicine meet their objectives around their three-part mission focused on patient care, research and education. You can see her full bio on the Left Nav blog.  


Jordan Bishop is the internet marketing specialist for Johns Hopkins Medicine, where he’s worked since January 2012. His primary responsibilities include managing and monitoring the Johns Hopkins Medicine social media accounts; overseeing e-mail marketing for the health system, including the monthly e-newsletter Your Health; and working with partners across the institution on various social and Web efforts. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky.

I know everyone on my friends list, so is it safe to post personal information, like a phone number or address, when I am on vacation? Is there anything I should avoid posting?

Be cautious about what you post on social media. A general social media rule to remember is “Once posted, always posted.” The more information you post online, including personal data, such as your cellphone number or home address, the easier it is for hijackers or someone else to steal your identity—or commit other crimes such as stalking.

When on vacation, it’s generally best to enjoy your trip social media-free and save those beachside photos for when you return. Studies show that being active on social media while away increases the risk for burglary.

If you can’t bear the thought of going “off the grid,” take a few minutes to create a “close friends” list on sites like Facebook, or even do a “spring cleaning” of the people you’re connected to. Not all “friends” are created equal.

What are privacy settings, and how do I use them?

Privacy settings allow a user to adjust how many people see their postings/profile—and even the amount of personal data a site can collect. The default privacy settings on social media sites are generally broad, meaning the general public can see what you post. Modify the settings if appropriate.

The site allows users to adjust their settings for sites like Facebook and Twitter in one place and even opt out of apps that monitor your phone’s location.

Can something I say on social media get me into trouble with school, work or the law?

Absolutely. When posting about the workplace, respect the confidentiality and privacy of both colleagues and patients.  The policies below, as found in the Johns Hopkins Medicine Social Media Guidelines, are imperative to remember.

Respect patient privacy. Honor the privacy rights of current and former patients by obtaining a HIPAA compliant authorization in writing before you write about or display information that might be considered a breach of privacy and confidentiality. If in doubt, do not disclose the information. Refer to the confidentiality statements and HIPAA policy templates ( for more information.

Example of a privacy breach
An employee posts on her personal Facebook page about her concern for a patient she has been caring for. The post does not include the patient’s name, history number or date of birth, but it does mention the type of service being performed or an unusual situation—the “largest mass” she has seen removed, for example, or that the patient is extremely obese. These details, paired with the date of the event and the type of service being performed, does make it possible to identify the patient.

I am interested in elevating my department’s presence on social media. What can I do?

Please connect with the Internet Strategy and Web Services team at Johns Hopkins Medicine by filling out a Web Service Request Form. We are happy to discuss best practices on social media, guidelines to help set up an effective social presence and much more.

Learn more about social media, content strategy and Web best practices from our Internet Strategy and Web Services team via our blog.

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