The College of Optometrists

Privacy and confidentiality

Issues of privacy and confidentiality are important if you use social media because online information can be easily accessed by others. You should be aware of the limitations of privacy online and regularly review privacy settings in your profiles. This is important because:
  1. social media sites cannot guarantee confidentiality, irrespective of your privacy settings
  2. your patients, colleagues and other professional contacts may be able to access your personal information
  3. information about your location may be embedded within photographs and other content, available for others to see
  4. if you post significant amounts of your personal information online, patients may have access to this and this may impact upon your professional relationship with them, and
  5. once information is published online it cannot be removed completely, as other users can distribute it more widely or comment on it.
You must not share patient identifiable information through social media, even if it is on a site for practitioners and is not accessible to the public.
You can share anonymised patient information on sites that are for practitioners only. However, you should remember that even if you anonymise patient information, the amount of additional information that is available online may mean that patients can be identified. This is a breach of patient confidentiality.
You must not discuss individual patients or their care with anyone, including the patients themselves, on publicly accessible social media.

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