The extract below, from an HR e-bulletin I recently recieved ( from Debbie Clark HR consultancy) was a bit of an eye opener for me. I guess it only really applies to the 'business type' of social media such as LinkedIn - but it could easily escalate. An employee using Twitter for example could be very influential to their followers if they moved to another competitor?
Former employee ordered to give employer log in details of LinkedIn account
Whitmar Publications Ltd v Gamage and others
Details have emerged this week of a case in which the High Court required a former employee to hand over the details of a LinkedIn account that she had established in the course of her employment, but that she had also used for personal purposes. This decision is thought to be the first time the ramifications of the misuse or misappropriation of a company LinkedIn account, together with all of the business contacts that it contains, have resulted in a court order to disclose log-in details to an employer. It is significant that despite the fact that the LinkedIn account had been set up by an employee in her own name and contained contacts that were no doubt personal to her, the court concluded that it was the property of Whitmar and that the log-in details (and hence ownership of the account) should be passed to it.
There are lessons for all parties in this decision. Employees should take note that a LinkedIn account that is established in the course of their employment by a company and used to market and advance that company's activities, may well be the property of the company, even if the employee has also been using the account as a personal contact database. Employers, on the other hand, need to remain vigilant and aware of the continually evolving world of social media. Although it was not a stumbling block in this case, employee contracts should include a clear direction as to ownership of corporate or employee-created LinkedIn accounts or similar databases. Employers should also be aware of the potential damage that can be caused to their business in the event of the defection of an employee who may have been using such an account to build and maintain an online contact base
There is more information about this case at: http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/25/09/2013/59670/case-of-the-week-former-employee-ordered-to-give-employer-log-in-details-of-linkedin-account-she.htm?cmpid=NLC|PTPT|PTDIR-20131002&sfid=70120000000taB7
Clearly, it's time to have another look at Social Media policies to ensure that ownership of work based social media are correctly covered!
As a big advocate of social media, I'd be really interested to hear of any similar experiences out there?