UK readers will have noticed a juror in England has been in trouble for exchanging messages on Facebook with a defendant in a criminal trial.

Hot on the heels of this news comes a timely piece from BBC journalist Marie Jackson – Facebook: Five things to avoid.

Her list includes

  • Don’t make friends with people you shouldn’t
  • Don’t moan about your boss/customers/constituents
  • Don’t upload dodgy photos
  • Don’t enjoy your sick leave too much
  • Don’t spill secrets.

Quite a proportion of her examples involve the public sector one way or another – not only the criminal trial mentioned above but a prison officer, politicians of all main UK parties, the head of MI6, and members of the armed forces.

Of course, indiscretion is nothing new.  I remember in my youth being gently chided by the director of the local authority department I worked in for some unkind reference to management in a union newsletter I edited, forgetting that senior managers were members of the same union.  Indeed they might share my concerns and it didn’t help if I implied they had the leadership qualities of Genghis Khan.  It was all the more embarrassing because in truth they didn’t and I had meant to sound off about some national pay issue.

I hope I learnt from that episode.  Unfortunately, the forum for learning from indiscretions these days is not a cosy one-to-one with an older and wiser colleague but the worldwide exposure of the web, enhanced by instant media interest.