You’ve set up and tailored your Facebook profile with a bunch of personal information and a flattering photo that catches you in just the right light (so what if it’s from 2005). In just a few weeks, your list of friends and followers has grown in leaps and bounds.
LinkedIn now hosts your professional resume and the hundreds of professional contacts you’ve established over the course of a career.
You’ve created a catchy Twitter handle and found the perfect avatar to go with it. Hundreds of people are following your every tweet.
And, that gorgeous panoramic shot of the Grand Canyon you took with your new DSLR camera makes for the perfect cover photo on your Google+ profile. Your Circles have expanded to include hundreds of people and pages.
Wow, you’re a social media guru! You’ve established a presence that is really all you. You own it….
Or do you?
Along comes a job opportunity you can’t pass up. You follow corporate protocol and provide two-weeks’ notice. After all, you’re a professional. You offer to assist with the transition – train your replacement, stay a little longer if needed or even provide some support after you’ve left.
But is Your Work Social Media?
Then you’re hit with it – your soon-to-be former boss insists that you turn over the login credentials to all those social media accounts you set up because, he says, they belong to the company. And you’re like, “What?! Can they do that?”
A number of cases addressing this very issue are currently winding their way through the courts.
Companies claiming ownership of social media accounts argue they contain trade secrets, proprietary and/or confidential information. Not surprisingly, these arguments have met with mixed results. After all, social media is anything but secret or confidential.
As a result, companies are adjusting how they manage the social media accounts that employees are using to increase business contacts and promote the company.
However, as mentioned in a previous post, an employer who gains access to someone’s social media account without permission runs the risk of violating federal anti-hacking laws as well as state privacy laws.
So one way to avoid these legal battles over social media is for the company to establish and maintain ownership and editorial control of the accounts from the get go.
Possession of login credentials is one sure way to do just that. Editorial control over posts and contacts is another. And to avoid any question or confusion, employers are frequently requiring that employees sign a written agreement clearly explaining that ownership and control of social media accounts belongs to the company.
Have you been asked to hand over social media accounts? Did you sign a social media ownership agreement?
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About the Author: Ralph A. Somma Ralph A. Somma is an experienced employment lawyer from Long Island, New York. For over 25 years, Ralph has been working to enforce workplace rights in New York and Long Island.