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May 2021
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Ten ways to keep business relationships private

Protecting confidential business relationships used to be easy. You just kept your mouth shut.

But the internet makes it easy to disclose people’s details, without even realising it. And that could have serious professional consequences.

This checklist will help to keep you out of trouble:

  1. Tell your contacts not to pass on personal messages on public social media pages. This might be obvious to you – but what if they don’t know the difference between a direct message and a public one?
  2. Make sure you don’t copy an email to someone else by mistake, or insert the wrong name in the name field using auto-insert.
  3. Just being connected to someone on LinkedIn or a similar platform acknowledges that you have a connection with them. Do they want their colleagues and employer to know that? In some professions, the link could breach client confidentiality.
  4. Beware Tweeting that you’re meeting someone. They might not want anyone else to know. And make sure the location is disabled on your cell phone and tablet.
  5. Double check your privacy settings on any work-related social media site, in case you end up communicating information to your friends and friends of friends, by mistake. Restrict who is able to access your information, and review it, frequently.
  6. Remember that the default privacy settings for both Twitter and Facebook allow some information to be shared with everyone, unless you change them.
  7. Keep separate social media accounts for work and personal life and refuse to engage with contacts on your personal feed … otherwise you could say things to them that could be seen by others.
  8. Do not to criticise your contacts or sound off about work on your personal social media pages. Employers are not legally obliged to disregard an employee’s conduct simply because it occurs outside the work place.
  9. Don’t criticise anybody in an email or on the web. Assume it will be passed on. If it is, it could be anything from embarrassing to defamatory.
  10. Remember: anything you write on a social media site can be used against you, in a court case.

Cleland Thom is a consultant and trainer in internet law, media law, reputation management, and web writing.
His clients include FT 100 businesses and renowned UK media, government, educational and non-profit organisations.
He is a member of the Society of Editors, and serve on the Chartered Institute of Journalists’ Professional Practices Committee.

By Cleland Thom


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