A couple of people have asked me to address the recent story in California about some hospital employees who took pictures of a dying patient and posted them on Facebook. Some of these people have been fired, and others have been disciplined. "Aha," some have said, "this shows that Facebook and other social media should be banned from hospital servers."
Here's what it really shows. It shows that some people are really insensitive and don't understand the privacy laws.
Is Facebook the cause of this? No. Does it facilitate the publication of pictures of all kinds? Yes.
As noted here, breaches of patient confidentiality can happen in many ways. Apparently, a common problem is when patient data is faxed to the wrong telephone number. And then there are the occasional cases where a portable computer with patient records is lost.
I know the counter-argument. These other examples are minor lapses and don't cause patient data to be spread to thousands of people instantaneously.
But here is the point. If you block Facebook on the hospital server, will it nonetheless be used in the wrong way by misguided people? Yes. They will use their iPhones or some other such handheld devices.
I know this sounds like the pro-gun argument, "Guns don't kill people. People do." However you might feel about that issue, this one is different. By blocking this medium on your hospital server, you will remove a highly effective communications tool, all because you are fearful that a few misguided people will misuse it. You trade the illusion of security for a loss of community.