Can social media and privacy co-exist?


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

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A friend recently called me to request my professional opinion on a situation.

Though he didn't divulge the entire story, he explained that during an event, the presenter made certain sensitive comments with regards to an individual and stakeholder.

The social media manager later posted the unedited video online to one of their social platforms. He wanted to know what were the legal implications.

This highlights a major occurrence currently taking place in conferences and presentations everywhere. The fact is that everything is recordable and is potentially being recorded - whether officially or in many cases, unofficially.

Recently at a presentation I had to ask two viewers to kindly put away their cameras and discontinue recording, as they had not sought permission.

Last week, I mentioned that we now have the power to live-stream and record everything, thanks to our now very well equipped cell phones. However, what about the negative implications? What about instances when a recording is done without permission or even worse, without the knowledge of the presenter?

Here are a few steps to take and things to consider when managing social media use at your event.


If you are hosting an event, be clear at the outset on what you will allow and not allow. At the start of the concert or conference, let the viewers know that filming will not be permitted.

If you tell them after the fact, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to get them to erase the content. Therefore decide beforehand what is your stance on this issue and make it clearly known at the start of the event.


One may say that the recommendation above will be hard to enforce. However, a simple solution is to have ushers, strategically placed throughout the location who will have a keen eye on who may be filming the presentation.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it is a small price to pay to prevent someone from filming your intellectual property and sharing it elsewhere.


Tell all speakers and presenters - anyone talking the stage - to be cognisant of their speech. We live in the age where anything and anyone can be recorded, and they should be aware of this. Don't just say anything that “can or will be used against you later”, whether in a court of law or in the media.

Avoid 'witty' jokes that are sometimes borderline in sensitivity or content, especially if you are in a large crowd or not totally familiar with and able to monitor the audience. Just TAKE CARE and think before you speak.


Another solution is to make the content available yourself. Let the attendees know that the content will be streamed or available online at a later date and they will be able to access it. This could reduce their need to film it themselves.


Inform and train your staff about your social media policy. Have one in place. What is unacceptable for posting, who should be consulted in times of doubt? Who is responsible if an error is made? A well-trained social media manager will know 'when in doubt don't'.


In addition, ensure that someone on staff is listening to the presentation so as to be able to identify particular areas that would be best cut and omitted before being shared online. Anything that could even slightly put your company's name and values on the line or even appear questionable, should be removed or simply not posted.

It's one thing to make a poor decision in the heat of the moment while on stage or in a pulpit, but it's quite another to then share said faux pas on social media for your followers and the wider world to hear and see. No need to wallow in a poor decision or mistake.


As social media is still young and fast-growing, the law unfortunately has not quite caught up to all of the modern challenges it has posed. However, issues such as libel or defamation are still relevant: for instance if one is filmed or recorded stating an untruth about another company or individual.

On the other hand, the issue of public or private space is also a factor. Was the person being filmed in a public space? Or was it done in an area considered private? Would an event or conference be considered private, especially if it wasn't stated as such?

In the past, the only people who had personal recorders and cameras were reporters. Now everyone does, all the time. Therefore the potential for filming in any space, be it public or private, has grown exponentially.

As more issues arise, it is certain that the legislation will also be developed to deal with them. Until then, responsible social media use does not only rest with those posting, but with those sharing their messages in the public sphere - and even what was once was considered private.




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