The administration of the College of Medicine recognizes that social networking websites and applications, including but not limited to Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, are an important and timely means of communication. However, students who use these websites and other applications must be aware of the critical importance of privatizing their web sites so that only trustworthy “friends” have access to the websites/applications. They must also be aware that posting certain information is illegal. Violation of existing statutes and administrative regulations may expose the offender to criminal and civil liability, and the punishment for violations may include fines and imprisonment. Offenders also may be subject to adverse academic actions that range from a letter of reprimand to probation to dismissal from school.
Prohibitions include the following:
- In your professional role as a care-giver, you may not present the personal health information of other individuals. Removal of an individual’s name does not constitute proper de-identification of protected health information. Inclusion of data such as age, gender, race, diagnosis, date of evaluation, or type of treatment or the use of a highly specific medical photograph (such as a before/after photograph of a patient having surgery or a photograph of a patient from one of the medical outreach trips) may still allow the reader to recognize the identity of a specific individual.
- You may not report private (protected) academic information of another student or trainee. Such information might include, but is not limited to: course or clerkship grades, narrative evaluations, examination scores, or adverse academic actions.
- In posting information on social networking sites, you may not present yourself as an official representative or spokesperson for the University of Florida College of Medicine.
- You may not represent yourself as another person, real or fictitious, or otherwise attempt to obscure your identity as a means to circumvent the prohibitions listed above and below.
- You may not utilize websites and/or applications in a manner that interferes with your official work commitments. That is, do not tie up a hospital or clinic computer with personal business when others need access to the computer for patient-related matters. Moreover, do not delay completion of assigned clinical responsibilities in order to engage in social networking.
In addition to the absolute prohibitions listed above, the actions listed below are strongly discouraged. Violations of these suggested guidelines may be considered unprofessional behavior and may be the basis for disciplinary action.
- Display of vulgar language.
- Display of language or photographs that imply disrespect for any individual or group because of age, race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
- Presentation of personal photographs or photographs of others that may reasonably be interpreted as condoning irresponsible use of alcohol, substance abuse, or sexual promiscuity.
- Posting of potentially inflammatory or unflattering material on another individual’s website, e.g. on the “wall” of that individual’s Facebook site.
When using these social networking websites/applications, students and residents are strongly encouraged to use a personal e-mail address, rather than their ufl.edu address, as their primary means of identification. Individuals also should make every effort to present themselves in a mature, responsible, and professional manner. Discourse should always be civil and respectful. Please be aware that no privatization measure is perfect and that undesignated persons may still gain access to your networking site. A site such as YouTube, of course, is completely open to the public. Future employers (residency or fellowship program directors, department chairs, or private practice partners) often review these network sites when considering potential candidates for employment.
Finally, although once-posted information can be removed from the original social networking site, exported information cannot be recovered. Any digital exposure can “live on” beyond its removal from the original website and continue to circulate in other venues. Therefore, think carefully before you post any information on a website or application. Always be modest, respectful, and professional in your actions.