Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

LinkedIn - Protecting Business Interests

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

LinkedIn - Protecting Business Interests

Article excerpt

THERE are now over 200 million LinkedIn users worldwide, 11 million of whom are in the UK. Employers often encourage their employees to promote their business through LinkedIn. While doing so, consideration should be given to the legal and practical difficulties that can arise, particularly with departing employees.

Brand control If employees are encouraged or expected to use LinkedIn for networking and promoting an employer's brand, the employer should set parameters as to how they use it. This could be done informally but would be better through a formal policy.

Strictly private and confidential Are contact lists on employees' LinkedIn accounts confidential to the employer? In the case of Whitmar Publications Ltd v Gamage and others [2013] EWHC 1881 (Ch) the High Court granted an injunction over the use of LinkedIn group contacts which had been created in the course of an employee's employment. A group of ex-employees, who had left Whitmar to set up a competing business, were accused of misusing Whitmar's confidential information after their employment had terminated. One of the allegations was that the ex-employees were using LinkedIn groups which had previously been operated for Whitmar's benefit and promotion, as their own and for the benefit of their new company. The court required the ex-employees to give Whitmar exclusive access management and control of the LinkedIn groups.

Whose account is it anyway? LinkedIn's User Agreement is made purely between the individual user and Linkedin, and states that, 'Even if you are using LinkedIn on behalf of a company or other legal entity, you are nevertheless individually bound by this Agreement' However, as Whitmar demonstrates, the English courts have disregarded these terms to some extent when looking at confidentiality. Although this case didn't address the issue of ownership of the LinkedIn contacts directly, the granting of an injunction which would restrain ex-employees from using the LinkedIn group contacts they had administered and maintained on behalf of the business during their employment, shows it is possible for former employers to exert some control over employees' LinkedIn accounts after termination of employment. …

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