**In the world of protective services, we are often charged with the responsibility of having to manage and reconcile between safety and access for our protectees.**

As business owners, employees, independent contractors or just private citizens we too are challenged with the dichotomy of managing our personal and professional lives on social media.

Some people feel if they just separate their personal and business online pages that will give them a de facto firewall that protects them from potential exposure, liability or consequences. While many social media platforms may give you the opportunity to create separate pages, the reality is many customers, and potential employers want to understand exactly who they are doing business with or considering for employment. As a business owner or independent contractor many customers, and in particular, millennials want to know the face behind the brand. Many marketing consulting companies even encourage authenticity for their clients to let their customers or consumers get to know them on a personal level as that is often seen as the way to build enthusiastic advocates of their respective brands. As business consultant, Carla Jones, often says, “People buy from and connect with who they know, like and trust.”

 

When it comes to employment, before most companies will consider extending an offer of employment, they too will seek to do background checks, inclusive of vetting your digital footprint to look for a good fit of the individual with their company culture or client base.

I have often heard people say, “You can’t tell me what to put on my personal Facebook page.” They are 100% correct that is protected by their First Amendment Rights, but it does not mean you won’t be held accountable for those words or actions. How many times have we seen individuals make disparaging remarks against individuals, ethnic groups or religious groups only to be later identified on social media and fired by their employers, so yes, our words do matter so expect to be held accountable for them.

When it comes to acts of violence and particularly mass casualty incidents, I have always said: “Monsters always start out as Gremlins.” So as more and more individuals and law enforcement agencies start looking to identify pre-incident indicators to help prevent a crisis, they too are reviewing social media pages in efforts to mitigate potential risks, particularly by people who may have forwarded them tips. There are always signs, and more and more people are learning to recognize them. But with the enhanced scrutiny, there will also be abuses by people with personal vendettas looking to thwart an individual or company’s growth. Don’t give them any potential openings due to your own reckless comments and actions.

New York Senate Bill S9191. A proposed bill in the New York State Senate could mean that anyone wanting to buy a pistol or renew their permit will be subject to a review of their internet history and social media accounts going back up to three years.

The bill, referred to as S9191, was drafted by State Senator Kevin Parker from New York’s 21st Congressional District with the intention of keeping firearms out of the hands of potentially violent people. S9191 “requires a person applying for a license to carry or possess a pistol or revolver or a renewal of such license to consent to having his or her social media accounts and search engine history reviewed and investigated for certain posts and/or searches over a period of 1-3 years prior to the approval of such application or renewal,” the draft bill states.

If the bill passes, investigators would be able to look for posts or searches that contain threats to the health or safety of others; intentions to carry out an act of terrorism; or commonly known profane slurs or biased language describing the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person.

This would mean accessing personal accounts and applicant’s login details to social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram. While I don’t think the above-proposed bill has a chance of passing as it violates too many constitutional rights, it does, however, show the ongoing desire for more accountability by those desiring to be armed.

When it comes to your social media platforms, many individuals have a desire to have high social media followings. Some will approve anyone just to increase their following count. Do you just hit confirm or do you even take a moment to review the social media profile of the requestor? When a social media friend makes an inappropriate or biased comment on your page, do you let it live or do you delete it and inform them those views are inconsistent with your personal views? Because we often are seen as cosigning another person’s point of view if we don’t act on it. Remember many people assume birds of a feather often flock together.

When it comes to firearms or combative related groups, they seem to bring out a disproportionate number of alpha personalities or keyboard ninjas. Have you researched the groups you desire to join or did you again just hit click? Take the time to understand the people behind the group and pay attention to the spirit of the chat threads. Do they lean hard toward the extremes whether toward anti-religion, ethnicity, gender, or government? You don’t want to find yourself on some government watch list when it comes to airline travel or renewing your professional credentials because the group is seen as a terrorist organization or militia group.

We spend our entire lives mitigating risks for our clients, let us make sure we are doing the same due diligence when it comes to managing our personal brands and businesses. Remember protecting your digital footprint is as important as protecting your clients.