Posting images of patients on social networks, a risky trend

Many professionals are uncomfortable with posting photographs of patients on social media. During their training they are instructed in all medical-surgical and human aspects of the patient as well as in the protection of the patient, including privacy as a primordial value.

In today’s times, there is undoubtedly an overexposure of patients on social networks. This does not seem to affect them, at least not in large numbers.

Whether the exposure of images is due to the patient’s own desire for prominence or to the interest of some professionals in using these images as a means of promoting their medical practice, the fact is that the significance of publishing these images may be unknown.

Legal framework

Within the framework of the current General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union, transferred to our legal system in the form of Organic Law 3/2018, of December 5, 2018, on the Protection of Personal Data and guarantee of digital rights (LOPDGDD). allows patients to consent to the publication of their images. This permit should be as specific as possible.

The law obliges the data controller and data processor to mention the increased risk to data protection. “where personal data were to be transferred, on a routine basis, to third States or international organizations for which an adequate level of protection has not been declared, to maintain the custody of these images, as well as to prevent the unauthorized dissemination and use of personal data”.

It is in the nature of social networks to disseminate data, in this case in the form of images. From this point of view, in addition to the fact that the servers of the main social networks are located in third countries outside the European Union, it prevents future control of this data.

It is difficult to imagine how to exercise the right to be forgotten as set forth in Article 94 of the LOPD in social networks, given the possible or rather certain dissemination of data beyond even those responsible and in charge of the custody of the data who on the other hand remain custodians of the data before the law.

Patients should therefore be made aware of the risks and benefits of the possible breaches in the control of their data once exposed in the social networks, and on the other hand, that the We are convinced that we should act as true guarantors of our patients’ privacy in the face of the virtually uncontrollable exposure in these media.

José Ignacio García Ceballos

Plastic Surgeon