It is a well-known fact that what happens between you and your doctor, or you and your psychiatrist, is confidential. That means your doctor cannot disclose any information to anyone unless you are a danger to yourself or to someone else. However, a recent story on Yahoo News reveals that a Facebook privacy issue is placing doctor/patient confidentiality at risk.

Technically, a psychiatrist in Singapore or elsewhere in the world is not even supposed to tell anyone the real first names of his patients unless he has a release form signed by that patient, permitting him to do so. Unfortunately, a search feature on Facebook is inadvertently breaking that trust and allowing patients of various psychiatrists to connect the dots and identify other patients who visit the same psychiatrist.

The Loophole in Facebook’s Privacy Promises

Here’s what happened. Lisa is a psychiatrist who uses Facebook solely for personal matters, never for professional connections. She is not Facebook friends with her patients, nor does she connect with them through social media at all.

However, Facebook has a program that crawls the profiles of various users and draws together data to find out which individuals may have common ground or might want to connect with each other. Facebook makes these “friend suggestions” based on common educational backgrounds, geographical locations, even mobile numbers.

One of Lisa’s patients began receiving a lot of “friend suggestions” for people he did not know. He began to suspect that they might also be patients of Lisa’s, and he alerted her to the fact that their names were showing up in his notifications, thanks to Facebook’s overly helpful program. Lisa looked at the list of names he provided and noticed that a number of her patients were indeed listed.

The Ramifications of the Breach

This type of breach means that patients can potentially see each other’s full names and view entire Facebook profiles if the privacy settings are not managed correctly. They can access photos, family members’ names, and other information as well.This can be dangerous for some patients, such as women who are in abusive situations, suicidal individuals, or HIV-positive people. The view of

This can be dangerous for some patients, such as women who are in abusive situations, suicidal individuals, or HIV-positive people. The view of mental health in Singapore is improving, but people still associate a certain stigma with psychiatrists. For some patients, there might be a social backlash if neighbours and friends discovered their regular visits to a psychiatrist in Singapore.

So far, Facebook has said little on the topic of the privacy breach. Hopefully, the social media giant will work on a solution to close this loophole. In the meantime, you can rest assured that Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic keeps your personal and private information strictly confidential.

We have the utmost respect for our patients, and we take every precaution to preserve their privacy. When you visit us at Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic, none of your personal affairs, private disclosures, or confidential information will be revealed to anyone except the mental health professionals at Adelphi who are directly involved in your care, counseling, and treatment. We want you to know that Adelphi is a secure, safe place for you to come and share your troubles and seek help for the issues you seek to resolve. Contact us if you need to make an appointment.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: Yahoo News, August 31, 2016