Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Social media contacts warning

Companies using corporate social media accounts must protect themselves and their followers if an employee moves on.
John Mehtam, our employment law specialist, said the issue of who actually owned the contacts and followers associated with these accounts was a difficult one.

“With the vast majority of businesses now taking to sites such as Twitter or LinkedIn to raise their profile, there may well be several employees posting messages about the company. But if one of those employees leaves the company, we have yet to see a trial in the UK to argue whether they can take the contacts with them. So employers should prepare themselves as this is clearly going to be a serious issue going forward, and as an employment lawyer I am already watching the legal developments carefully.”

John said when it came to LinkedIn, the law was likely to separate out ownership of a LinkedIn account from the ownership of the contacts attached to it.

“This is because the account was set up by the employee under a contract with LinkedIn – but any contacts made through a person’s employment are likely to belong to the employer and should be handed back when an employee leaves.

“And when it comes to Twitter, the situation is even more complicated. Companies are struggling to keep up with the pace of ever-changing social media trends, and may well not yet have any provision in their employment policies to protect themselves and prevent employees simply taking their followers with them if they leave.

“As an employer, you need to urgently review your employment contracts to ensure you include confidential information clauses on contacts made through Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts.

“Make sure too that you regularly remind staff of your policy, and if an employee does leave, remind them again that they should delete any relevant contacts and profiles, and ask them to sign to confirm they have done so. Social media is now an integral part of everyday life, and companies must ensure they are adapting their corporate policies day by day to protect their assets and their reputation.”