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IP Quick Intellect

The risks with selfies – how much attention are you paying to what you post?

Posted by on 19 Nov 2015

It is not uncommon for business people to upload the occasional ‘selfie’ as a means to connect with their customers on a more personal level. Whilst posting your photos on social networking channels can create welcome interest in your business, there is a significant risk in unintentionally disclosing private or confidential information.

British Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, found himself being accused of breaching patient confidentiality earlier this year. After visiting a local hospital, Hunt commended medics, posing for a picture beside them which he uploaded to his personal Twitter account. Unfortunately, his picture also captured a whiteboard of patients’ names in the background. Just minutes later, the original photo was replaced with the amended image below – no longer featuring the confidential information.

Twitter users were outraged by Hunt’s conduct and began firing heated tweets at the Secretary of State for Health, demanding he apologise to patients.

Others went as far as encouraging disciplinary action against Hunt.

Another selfie mishap occurred this month when a triumphant punter uploaded a photo of herself with her winning Melbourne cup bet. The original image included important details of her receipt…including the personalised barcode.

Chantelle had a rude awakening when she tried to claim her winnings (over $850). A so-called Facebook ‘friend’ had beaten her to the punch - manipulating her selfie in a way that allowed the ticket to pass as legitimate and withdrawing her winnings from an automated machine.

Things to consider before uploading your selfie

Along with considering a flattering pose, filter and caption, individuals should pay close attention to the background of the image. Things such as client details, client files, confidential documents, and information of interest should remain absent from your self portrait. As an employer, you should have a social media policy in place that touches upon the taking of selfies at work. While your employee may be the one posting the photo, as an employer you may still be responsible for any breach of privacy or confidentiality. 

Also, while you’re keen to share your news, make sure there is no adverse consequence arising from such disclosure. For example, an early disclosure of an invention or innovation may prevent you from obtaining registered rights.

The above examples are an important reminder that social media posts are instant and have the potential to reveal more information than originally anticipated.  While the disclosure may be inadvertent, today’s customers are not so forgiving and your reputation and relationship with customers could be adversely affected. 

If you’re unsure about an image and how to prevent your business experiencing a #socialmediafail, or you would like to speak with one of the lawyers in Coleman Greig's Brand Protection team, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us on 02 9895 9230, or via

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