I spent two days last week in continuing education. No matter what your profession, those words alone probably induce yawns and cause your eyes to glaze over just a little. But the reality is it's required, and if we're honest, we do actually learn a few things that will enable us to better do our jobs.
For instance, I knew I had hit the jackpot at this year's Kentucky Law Update when I saw there were sessions devoted specifically to the use of social-networking sites in the practice of law. The first such session highlighted using social-networking sites to gather information -- on witnesses, on opposing parties, to support search warrants or other investigative activity... The list is endless.
I've written before about information derived from Facebook being used in hiring and firing decisions, but there are also instances in which YouTube videos have been used as evidence in insurance fraud cases, for example. Information from social-networking sites may also be helpful in negotiating settlements or vetting a witness before deciding whether to use his or her testimony
Our presenter for that session was Louisville-based attorney Stuart B. Adams, Jr. Adams, who writes a blog on the legal issues arising from social networking and maintains a LinkedIn group that addresses similar issues, emphasized that perhaps the most interesting, yet troubling aspect of the Internet as information source is that everything is connected. We are living in the era of Web 3.0, or the semantic Web, he said, quoting Tim Berners-Lee. It's interesting because it allows such things as targeted advertising based on our activity on the Web and search engines that can make decisions for us as to which results are more relevant to our situations. On the other hand, he indicated it's troubling because of the privacy issues it presents.
Though Adams did not elaborate on the privacy implications at that time, his comment reminded me of my conversation with Patient Privacy Rights executive director Ashley Katz last week regarding the privacy issues presented by the use of online personal health records, and those issues were troubling enough.
I'm not sure I really want to know more about how all the rest of the information out there can be (and probably is) used. But I'm going to ask anyway. Hopefully Adams will have the time to share his thoughts on the matter. Stay tuned.