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Handling Client Confidentiality on Social Media

DATE PUBLISHED: April 04, 2014

It's an understatement to say that people like to share things about themselves on social media. Sometimes it's funny. Other times it's simply harmless. But if you're a financial institution, over-eager social media followers may inadvertently breach confidentiality agreements, and that is neither funny nor harmless. Today we'd like to look at what banks can do to ensure client confidentiality on social media. 

Here are some tips:

Write up a "social media user guidelines" that establishes the ground rules. You'll probably want to pull up with your lawyers or your corporate office on this one, as there will “naturally” be some legal issues in play. Ultimately, you'll need to communicate these guidelines to users to minimize liability on your end. Posting the guidelines on your site is a great place to start. Any written documents signed by customers should also stipulate that posting sensitive information on social media is off-limits.

Never engage customers around their financial information. In the off-chance a customer poses a question on Facebook or Twitter regarding their personal financial information - as strange as it sounds, it's been known to happen - immediately delete the comment and do not engage. This advice, of course, is highly ironic since we generally encourage businesses to engage with followers. But not in this case. Encourage users to call your office or walk in to a branch to talk to a customer service rep about their concerns.Screen Shot 2014 03 31 at 5.33.57 PM

Prohibit users from posting other types of content. This may include solicitations (aka spam), content that may compromise the security of customer information such as account numbers, user IDs and passwords, content pertaining to your bank's employees’ like names and telephone numbers, and anything that discloses confidential or non-public third party information.

Check your accounts frequently. This may sound like a no-brainer, but when things get busy it's easy to forget to check your social media sites for comments. Furthermore, banks have to be on the lookout for other individuals "spoofing" or masquerading as the institution on social media. This risk was one of many alluded to in a recent Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) document, issued in December of 2013, providing guidance to banks around the applicability of consumer protection and compliance laws, regulations and policies to activities conducted via social media by banks. The report is certainly worth a look.

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