Legal Matters
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Social Media: Are you Linking In or Leaking Out?

Ask yourself, who owns the confidential information and data contained within a LinkedIn account? Is it the business or your employee? Have you taken steps to protect important information such as customer lists and contact details from an employee after they leave your business?

Here is a recent scenario:

In early 2013, the most senior employee of a company, together with two other senior staff members, informed the business they were leaving and were placed on gardening leave. Following this the three employees formed a new company, working in the same field and in the same market as the previous company. As part of the new company’s early marketing drive, email addresses from one of the previous company’s LinkedIn groups were used to invite connections from that group to a business event for the new company. The previous company took the former employees and the new company to Court, seeking to restrain the defendants from using its confidential information, which included, amongst other items, LinkedIn interactions

Decision:

Although the Court made no final decision, it granted an interim Order preventing the use by the new company of the information which had been sourced from the previous company’s LinkedIn.

Implications:

The business benefits of the social media explosion are obvious but the potential consequences of unplanned activities in this area are only now becoming clear. In its ruling, the Court has indicated that it will consider LinkedIn information and interactions, which were created solely through the conduct of business, as information which can be protected by the company.

Practical Steps to Take:

1. Adopt a robust social media policy and review it regularly
2. Set clear guidelines for social media use and provide training to all employees
3. Monitor social media use
4. Introduce enforceable post-termination restrictions
5. Ensure specialist social media legal advice is only a phone call away in the event of an unfolding social media/employment crisis 

Paul McDonnell, Partner and Media Law Specialist
paul.mcdonnell@mckinty-wright.co.uk

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute professional or other advice.

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