Social Networking Policy

Article I - Policy 
Social and business networking websites, weblogs, and on‐line communities – hereafter referred to as social networks – such as Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, and Flickr are used increasingly by faculty, students, and staff to communicate with each other and by universities to post events and profiles to reach external audiences.  As part of Stony Brook University’s commitment to building a community in which all persons can work together in an atmosphere free of all forms of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation when using University electronic resources to access on‐line social networks, members of the SBU SOM community are expected to act with honesty, integrity, and respect for the rights, privileges, privacy, sensibilities, and property of others. 

Article II - Scope 
This policy applies to all medical students in the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.  Students and residents should follow these guidelines whether participating in social networks personally or professionally, and whether they are using personal or SOM workstation or mobile technology.  Regardless of whether you post items for University business purposes or personal use, you are never permitted to post SBU confidential information, including any patient information

Article III - Use of Technology
All users of technology are expected to be aware of, and comply with, current institutional policies regarding Use of Technology. 

Article IV - Ethical/Professional Behavior

A.   University Business Use 
Only University employees expressly authorized by their departments may use social networking websites to conduct University business. If authorized and in keeping with University policy, an employee may post on a social network: the University’s name, a University email address or University telephone number for contact purposes, or official department information, resources, calendars, and events.

For example, a student health advocate or educator is charged with student outreach and education within their job description. Student Health Services may authorize these employees to use an on-line social networking site to communicate with students and post information regarding available University resources.

B.   Personal Views 
Individuals or groups within the University community are not permitted to present personal opinions in ways that imply endorsement by the University. If the posted material may reasonably be construed as implying the support, endorsement, or opposition of the University with regard to any personal statements, including opinions or views on any issue, or if the poster’s University affiliation is evident in the posting, the material shall be accompanied by a disclaimer that the individual is speaking for himself or herself and not as a representative of the University or any of its offices or units. An example of a disclaimer is as follows: 
The contents, including all opinions and views expressed, in my profile [or on my page] are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of anyone else, including other faculty, students, or staff in my department or at Stony Brook University.  Stony Brook University has not approved and is not responsible for the material contained in this profile [or on this page]. 

C.   Posting Information about Colleagues and Co-Workers 
Respect for the privacy rights of colleagues and co-workers is important in a work environment. If you are in doubt about whether it is appropriate to post any information about colleagues and co-workers, ask for their explicit permission – preferably in writing.  Making demeaning or insulting comments about colleagues or co-workers to third parties constitutes unprofessional behavior. Such comments may also breach the University’s codes of behavior regarding harassment, including the Code of Student Conduct and the Sexual Harassment Policy.

D.  Posting Information Concerning Hospitals or Other Institutions 
Be aware of the need for the hospital, the University and other institutions to maintain the public trust.  Consult with the appropriate resources, such as the Office of Media Relations or the UGME Office, for advice in reference to posting material that might identify the institution.

E.   Offering Medical Advice 
Do not misrepresent your qualifications.  As a trainee, provision of medical advice must be supervised by a licensed physician at all times. 

F.   University Policies Extend To the Appropriate Use of the Internet  
Postings on social networking sites are subject to the University’s policies, including but not limited to, the Code of Student Conduct, Sexual Harassment and Use of Technology policies.  Students may be subject to disciplinary actions for violations of University policy, up to and including dismissal or termination. 

G.   Copyright, and Proprietary information 
Respect copyright and trademark laws.  If you post content, photos or other images, you are implying that you own or have the right to use those items. University logos may not be used on any social media sites unless approved in advance in accordance with University policy. 

H.   Monitoring and Enforcement 
Any information you post on the internet is public information. You are responsible for knowing how to use social networking sites, managing any information you share on such sites, and being compliant with all applicable website and University policies. 

Since information posted on the internet is public, Stony Brook University may monitor social networking sites and, as with other electronic resources, University systems administrators may perform activities necessary to ensure the integrity, functionality, and security of the University’s electronic resources.  Remember, other employers, organizations, and individuals may also monitor and share information they find on social networking websites.  

All professionals have a collective professional duty to assure appropriate behavior, particularly in matters of privacy and confidentiality.  A person who has reason to believe that another person has contravened these guidelines should approach his/her immediate supervisor/program director for advice.  An individual may also submit a written complaint to the Vice Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education. 

I.   Privacy/Confidentiality   
To ensure privacy/confidentiality:   

  1. Keep official medical school activities in CBASE -- not on a social networking site.
  2. Do not interact with patients on social networking sites.
  3. Keep all postings and communications on social networking sites in accordance with accepted ethical and professional practices of being a physician.
  4. Never share patient information with anyone on any social networking site.
  5. Maintain the privacy of colleagues, doctors and other University or hospital employees when referring to them in a professional capacity unless they have given their express permission for their name or likeness to be used.
  6. Patient privacy measures taken in any public forum apply to social networking sites as well.
  7. Online discussions of specific patients should be avoided even if all identifying information is excluded.
  8. Under no circumstances should photos of patients or photos depicting the body parts of patients be displayed online unless specific written permission to do so has been obtained from the patient.
  9. HIPAA regulations apply to comments made on social networking sites and violators are subject to the same prosecution as other HIPAA violations.   

These guidelines were developed after a review of the medical literature as of 2/2/10 as well as reviewing resources and guidelines available from other schools at the AAMC websites.

A.  Literature

  1. Chretien KC, Greysen SR, Chretien JP, Kind T. Online posting of unprofessional conduct by medical students. JAMA. 2009 Sep 23;302(12):1309-15.  60% of schools reported students posting unprofessional content online, 38% had explicit policies regarding this.
  2. Guseh JS 2nd, Brendel RW, Brendel DH.Medical Professionalism in the Age of Online social networking. J Med Ethics. 2009 Sep;35(9):584-6.  Using Facebook as an example, this article illustrates the ethical challenges to this novel form of information exchange in online environments and offers some guidelines on professionalism.
  3. Thompson LA, Dawson K, Ferdig R, Black EW, Boyer J, Coutts J, Black NP. The intersection of online social networking with the medical profession. JGen InternMed. 2008 Jul;23(7):954-7.  Significant proportion of Facebook users have inappropriate content and suggesting that professionalism training should include instruction of the intersection of personal and professional identities. 
  4. Gorrindo T, Gorrindo PC, Groves JE. Intersection of Online social networking with medical professionalism: Can medicine police the Facebook boom?  AMA should facilitate a national conversation and create general guidelines.

B.  Policy Documents 
1.  UC Santa Barbara Social Networking Guidelines
2.  Guidelines for appropriate use of the internet, electronic networking and other media 
3.  Social and Business Networking on the Internet. 
4.  Guidelines for Resident Usage of Social Networking Websites July 2009 GRA Private Site.