Social Media Miranda Rights

by Joseph Kwon in ,


"You have the right to remain silent..."

The Miranda rights are familiar to anyone who has watched a movie or TV program with American police. Similar procedures exist throughout the world when police may need to question a suspect.

I'm not a criminal lawyer, but the basic premise of reading these rights is to preserve the suspect's right against incriminating himself and their right to a lawyer. By doing so, any statements made are more likely to be admissible as evidence in court.

This got me thinking about all the things we say on social media. And how each post creates a written record of our rare brilliance, regrettable stupidity or something in between. And how each statement, by default, will be preserved for longer than we realize. And finally, how what we say can be used against us in the court of public opinion. 

Despite being an avid user of social media, as an attorney and Privacy professional I'm wary of the pitfalls of having everything you've posted stored indefinitely. Think about how much you've changed over the years. Think about how easy it is to post something you regret. And as data analytics gets more powerful, uses of the information that we might not have even imagined may become reality - perhaps not always to our benefit. Think "Minority Report."

So what is a connected citizen of the world supposed to do?

My EZPZ suggestion is to exercise what I like to call your Social Media Miranda Rights:

You have the right to delete your posts. Anything you post can and will be used against you in a court of public opinion. You have the right to privacy controls. If you cannot find privacy controls, you might want to consider passing on this app. Do you understand these rights? With these rights in mind, do you wish to keep posting?

In practice you can separate your social media posts into two camps. The first are things that took time to create and are more permanent in nature - like a long-form blog post, article you wrote or video you scripted. You can forget about these for the most part and revisit them every few years for relevance.

The second are the spur of the moment posts. Tweets, LinkedIn updates, and Facebook posts generally fall into this camp. Where possible, come up with a time frame that you don't mind these being accessible to the world. So for example, maybe you only want the last 30 days of what you said to be easily accessible online. In that case, you could use an application like Tweet Delete to automatically remove any tweets older than 30 days. For LinkedIn, they only display your last 30 days of updates so no more to do here. I'm not a big Facebook user, but I imagine they give you some controls.

Important! If a social media app doesn't give you adequate control over your data, you might want to seriously consider passing on using them. Or at least do this with your eyes wide open.

At the end of the day, by exercising your Social Media Miranda Rights, you will minimize the chances that your next job, election, or relationship will be ruined by an errant post of Christmas past. And hopefully, you can avoid being hunted down like in the Minority Report.

Good luck and "RUN! ! ! ! ! ! !"

Next post next Saturday, 6:30 a.m.