HOW CAN AN EMPLOYER PROTECT THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA CONTACTS WHEN AN
LinkedIn is a perfect example of how important social media in
the workplace is to the development of modern business. LinkedIn
allows a business to communicate with its existing clients and to
market to prospective clients. The contacts of a LinkedIn account
will become crucial to a business.
WHO OWNS LINKEDIN CONTACTS?
As the use of social media still continues to grow, many
businesses have not taken steps to protect their LinkedIn contacts
and to clearly set out how these contacts can be used by employees,
during and post employment. This is especially important given
LinkedIn's position that the rightful owner of an account is
the individual user, that is, the employee, even if they are using
the software on behalf of a company.
Internationally, there have been a few cases on the use of
LinkedIn accounts post employment:
In an American case of Eagle v Morgan, Dr Eagle, the founder of
Edcomm was terminated shortly after the sale of the company. Edcomm
subsequently took control of her LinkedIn account which had amassed
over 4000 contacts. Edcomm changed her password and substituted her
name, picture, education and experience with that of her
replacement. The Court held that Edcomm was guilty of invasion of
privacy, misappropriation of identity and an unauthorised use of
In a UK case of Hays Recruitment (Holdings) Ltd & Anor v
Ions & Anor a recruitment consultant copied a list of Hays'
clients so as to connect with them once he set up his own
recruitment agency. The Court held that because Hays encouraged the
use of LinkedIn in the performance of his duties, the connections
were confidential information. The employee was ordered to hand
over the connections.
In a UK case of Whitmar Publications Limited v Gamage & Ors
several former employees were using LinkedIn groups established by
Whitmar to solicit clients for a new business they had set up. The
Court granted Whitmar an injunction that prevented the employees
from using the LinkedIn contacts. The contacts were considered
Whitmar's confidential information and the Court held that the
conduct of the employees was in breach of the duty of good
WHAT STEPS CAN AN EMPLOYER TAKE?
Businesses need to be proactive in protecting their LinkedIn
contacts. A business may consider:
Implementing and enforcing a social media policy about the use
of LinkedIn and the expectations of the employer;
Implementing procedures for updating the employer's central
database should information relevant to the business be obtained
from a LinkedIn contact (eg change in phone numbers or a contact
Issue employment contracts that:
Restrict the use of LinkedIn contacts after the employment
relationship has been terminated;
Create a confidentiality clause with respect to LinkedIn
contacts obtained during the course of employment.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
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