Social Media - Employees using them correctly?

Social Media - Employees using them correctly?

Muneeb Dean, Head of Corporate at DBS Law examines the tricky subject of protecting valuable data collected on company social media sites.

Often small businesses will trust senior and key personnel to manage and run the Company’s Linked In account, and keep a central record of all business cards received from key customers and suppliers. This can include giving the employee the Company’s Linked In user name and password and letting them manage the account. What happens if they leave, and you then realise they have used all the Linked In data, together with information on the business cards to email all your key suppliers and customers, and set up a competing business? This may sound far-fetched, but it can happen, and did happen in a recent case which reached the High Court in London.

What happened in this case?

Three senior employees resigned their positions and were put on garden leave. Their contracts of employment were very basic, and did not include any covenants preventing the employees competing with the Company. After they left, the Company found out that the ex-employees had set up another company together, registered a domain name, and were going to work in competition. Furthermore, the ex-employees had;

  • Sent out a press release by email to key contacts of the Company using the same email  addresses as used in the Company’s Linked In account,
  • produced  media packs which had a striking resemblance to those of the Company , and
  • Removed over 250 business cards from the premises.

The Judge said that the ex-employees had taken active steps to compete against the Company, and were using confidential information belonging to the Company. The judge granted an injunction stopping the ex-employees using the information found on the business cards.

This shows that the Courts will take any attempt by ex-employees to misuse Company contacts in Linked In and business cards very seriously, even if the information has been maintained by an employee at work.

What practical steps can you take to protect your business?

  • Put in place properly drawn up contracts of employment, social media policies, and manuals setting out the boundaries on what information is confidential, and who it belongs to.
  • Modify job descriptions so that growing and maintaining a Linked In account is part of business development, and the marketing strategy of the firm.
  • Ask your employees to set up a separate Linked In account using work photos, work emails, and company contacts only. Ideally, before being published, get the employee to run the content past you.
  • If you still allow personal contacts to be mixed with business contacts on Linked In, then place an obligation on the employee to delete business contacts on termination of their employment.