Saturday, December 24, 2011


While running last minute errands yesterday, and doing the requisite Foursquare check-in at every location, I found myself getting a spam tweet after almost every check in as I have Foursquare set to share the check-ins on Twitter (which shares them with Facebook – so my technology programs are interconnected). After one check in, my phone did its typical ding to let me know I had a text message.

There was yet another text message from Twitter notifying me that someone had mentioned me in a tweet or has sent me a direct message via Twitter. By this point in the day, annoyance ran pretty high and I almost deleted the text without reading it, but as I had been in conversation with a friend in direct messages that day, I decided I better check it.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this tweet:

@rwlarson Sorry about your back pain. Hope all goes well. Please let us know if you hav a ny [sic] Happy Holidays!

It was from the clinic where my doctor practices!

How did they get my Twitter identity?

And why are they tweeting out something that identifies a health condition in a way that anyone who follows my Twitter account can see? I had gone to the doctor two days earlier because of lingering back pain. I think there is a HIPAA violation somewhere in that tweet.

I am glad it was not an STD. I can only imagine that tweet:

@rwlarson Sorry about your gonorrhea. Hope the shot didn’t hurt too much. Please let us know if you need another. Happy Hoiidays!

What are they going to do next? Send my prescriptions through Facebook?

I joke about the circumstances of the tweet, but below it lays a serious concern about who has our information – not only our confidential information, but our socially accessible information as well. I work to connect all parts of my social media experience so that together they paint a more complete picture than any one alone would. I diligently monitor everything I post for appropriateness while ceding that I cannot control every line printed about me by others.

It is one thing for a friend or acquaintance to say something inappropriate, but quite another for a medical facility to post something about your health. Is the bank soon going to start tweeting my account balance to my timeline?

Our ability to now connect disparate bits of data through technology contributes to the exponential growth in our knowledge base and makes great strides in scientific and social progress, but where are the lines to be drawn? I know I do not want my personal details available on social media and will be extra careful about what and how various agencies learn of my social connections.
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