Social workers: take our survey on social media surveillance of service users

The legality of social workers checking social media profiles of service users was questioned by a legal blogger last year

social media
Photo: Mathias Rosenthal/Fotolia

Social media use in social work is a grey area, both in how professionals use it personally and how they might use it for their work.

Following a piece last year, where Community Care interviewed three principal social workers on how social media should be used in practice, legal blogger Suesspicious Minds raised questions about potential criminal liability for social workers using social media to carry out surveillance of service users on social media.

Almost a year on, Community Care would like to know how awareness of the issues raised by social media use has grown, whether practitioners feel confident in how they use social media and who to talk to for guidance.

Complete our short survey here.

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3 Responses to Social workers: take our survey on social media surveillance of service users

  1. Jim Greer September 13, 2018 at 11:55 am #

    I think the most important issue here which goes beyond the legal aspects is the the effect which social media surveillance has on the reputation and trustworthiness of social work as a profession. We would hopefully not dream of eavesdropping on a private conversation made by a service user. If we were near to them in a cafe or library without us knowing we were there and they were having a conversation with someone then the polite thing to do would be to make them aware that we are present.If we were in someone’s house and there was a letter from a friend or relative open on a table beside us, then hopefully we would not read it without their permission. Similarly we would not visit a local pub and ask for gossip about a service user.
    Whatever, short term gains are made in terms of using information from social media postings are likely to be balanced off by the loss of trust by the breaking of normal social taboos around respect for the privacy of others.
    I have frequently seen people exhibit behaviors in relation to social media postings that they would not do in relation to other types of public conversations. Just because social media information can be easily accessed and recorded does not mean that it should be.

  2. Maharg September 14, 2018 at 12:14 pm #

    It is interesting that there is a ethical debate over the appropriateness of information which is in the public domain. Working in the role that I do we occasionally use social media to identify individual people when doing investigative work relating to abuse. Do not necessarily consider the information put forward is the God’s honest truth and a real reflection of the situation, however some of the basic information that people put down in a matter-of-fact way have been useful to support or undermine their argument’s I also recall over the last year several reported cases where judges have remarked that information from the social worker shouldn’t have been used from social media, while other judges have argued that the social worker failing to consider this key information had not grasped the severity of the situation. And as previously said by another contributor just because we have got access does not necessarily mean that we should. So the normal dilemma is given all the facts that we can find out do we make a flawed decision based on that information. Personally I consider what I put on social media, has like a large stone in a lake, we have no real knowledge how far the ripples will travel.

    • Maharg September 14, 2018 at 12:16 pm #

      Including the ripples from this one !