Employers Should be Careful to Guard Their Company’s Social Media Profiles
There have been many articles written as of late concerning employees’ use of social media at the office. However, little has been written about employers protecting their company’s social media profiles against unauthorized use by competitors or even disgruntled former employees. In today’s digital age, use of social media by businesses is an invaluable marketing tool. Given the increasing use of social media, companies must be mindful of their rights over social media accounts, such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.
In the March 14, 2012 decision of Regas Christou et al. v. Beatport, LLC, et al., the United States District Court for the District of Colorado held that a nightclub owner adequately stated a claim for misappropriation of a trade secret against its direct nightclub competitor. The competitor misappropriated login information of the nightclub owner’s MySpace business account, including his list of MySpace friends. Importantly, the Court noted that the names of a person’s, or a company’s, friends on a social media website were not the important factor, but that the ancillary information including contact information and personal preferences connected to those friends weighed in favor of trade secret protection. Id. at *15. A competitor (or former employee) that accesses a company’s friends on a social media website, may gain unlawful access to “personal information, information about his or her interests and preferences, and perhaps, most importantly for a business, contact information and a built-in means of contact.” Id.
In order for a company to protect its social media accounts and to prevent competitors or former employees from gaining access to such accounts and attempting to wrongfully use that information, a company should develop a protocol to protect these valuable marketing tools. This may include protecting the secrecy of Twitter, MySpace and Facebook accounts by requiring a login and password to access the account, as well as keeping such login information and password restricted to “need to know personnel.” It may also be necessary for a company to carefully review its written social media policy, as well as contracts with employees and outside businesses to make certain the company retains ownership of contacts listed in its various social media accounts.
As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice. For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.