Protecting Your Social Media Data: Three Things You Need to Know
Kelley Clements Keller

In the age of social media and constant sharing, we, as individuals and companies, must be careful with what we post, collect, and share. We must be sure to consider our social media data as something to be protected and not discount its importance. What we post is permanent, and what we share becomes public. To provide some guidance, here are three things you need to know about protecting your social media data.

Image by M. H. from Pixabay

It’s Public Until It’s Private

Data you post on a social media platform is generally public until you change the privacy settings. When social media providers edit or modify these settings, users may, but not always, get notification. It is your responsibility to actively monitor the various privacy policies and settings to ensure that you are in compliance at all times. In doing so, you will greatly reduce leakage of sensitive or confidential information on outbound data streams.

You Must Police Yourself, Others and Technology

Police Yourself:
If you are posting third-party copyrighted material, displaying a trademark, or using content that is legally protectable, be mindful of your risk of infringement. Avoid the appearance of misuse by including proper copyright notice (© [Year of First Publication of Work] [Owner Name.] All Rights Reserved.) where applicable and properly use trademark symbols (® for federally registered trademarks; ™ or SM symbol in the upper right hand corner of a trademark or service mark in which a third-party is claiming rights even though the mark is not federally registered), and attribution statements are always useful. The converse is true when you are the copyright or trademark owner; always use proper notice and markings on your protected content and trademarks so that the public is aware that your property is protected and cannot be used improperly.

Police Others:
Carefully monitor who is sharing your data and where it is being shared. Make sure that protected content is not being misused through failure to identify the source of the data and/or to seek permission to use if necessary. If you find your information on a third-party’s social media platform, gather facts and take action by following the Terms and Conditions of the service provider, or contact legal counsel immediately.

Police the Technology:
Keep close tabs on incoming content to avoid malware infiltration or other threats to your data. Consider adding zero-hour threat detection to your traditional anti-virus/malware tools to better block malware that can enter through social media. Worms and phishing attacks, such as Koobface, Bugat, and Boonana, can be extremely destructive to social media data if undetected.

The Law Does Not Protect a Fool from His Own Folly

Now, more than ever, it is necessary to read the fine print (Terms of Use and Privacy Policies) of the social media network platforms you are using. Understanding the “rules of the road”—what you can and cannot do and what you should and should not do—can save much time, cost, and hassle. The fine print can get lengthy, so consider the following tips: Start at the end because this generally includes the most important information; determine who owns the data that is posted/uploaded, e.g., the social media network platform or the user; identify how long information is stored by each platform; and determine how and if users are notified of changes to terms and conditions of use. Knowing how social media providers view their rights and responsibilities is crucial to understanding your rights and responsibilities. More and more, courts are requiring social media content to be archived like email or instant messages since it is discoverable in legal proceedings. In many cases, it is the primary evidence on which a case may turn. Moreover, if you work in the financial industry or for the federal government, you are likely to encounter numerous regulatory requirements related to retention of social media communications.

Bottom Line

Activate privacy settings and keep up with changes made to them by social media providers. Police your behavior and that of others in order to avoid liability for copyright or trademark infringement that make you, your company, or client vulnerable to a malware attack. Retain any and all social media content that may constitute a business record.

Kelley Clements Keller, Esq. is a practicing attorney and the Founder and Managing Member at The Keller Law Firm, an Intellectual Property firm located in Carlisle, PA. She can be reached at

Disclosure: While Kelley Clements Keller is an attorney, this writing is for informational purposes only and is not to be considered legal advice.