LinkedIn: protecting confidential information

By Lisa Hodgson

Social media is becoming an increasingly common business tool as it is easy to use, free and effective. Many of our clients, particularly in professional services industries, encourage the use of LinkedIn as a forum for marketing. If you meet someone at a networking event, you are now just as likely to add them on LinkedIn as you are to swap business cards.

LinkedIn has seen exponential growth over recent years. It now has more than 259 million members in more than 200 countries and gets two new members per second. In the UK alone, there are 13 million members. Over the past few years, we have started to see a slow trickle of employment tribunal decisions relating to the use of social media, but these have tended to concern the use of Facebook rather than LinkedIn.

A recent trend we are seeing is that when employees leave employment there can be a dispute about who owns their LinkedIn contacts, particularly where they are setting up in competition with their former employer and are likely to use the contacts in their new employment. Given the growth in popularity of LinkedIn, employers are quickly realising that a departing employee’s LinkedIn contacts are just as valuable to the employee as the company’s own database of contacts. There are very few cases regarding the ownership of LinkedIn contacts made during the course of employment and we expect this to be a growth area in coming years…

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