The days of creating a social media account to keep in contact with friends and have fun are coming to an end. With social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter now containing more information about where a person works and what jobs a person has held, employers now want more control over employees’ social media accounts, even their personal accounts. (Source 1 & Source 2).
In a recent decision, a federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed most elements of an employee’s complaint against her employer. The employee complained that her LinkedIn account had been illegally accessed by her employer after she had left. She argued that her employer changed her password and prevented her from accessing important contacts. By dismissing most elements of the lawsuit, the judge essentially gave employers more power over controlling and owning an employees’ social media account. (Source 1).
An employers’ interest in an employees’ social media account can be two fold. Along with the numerous contacts that an employee has through their social media account, an employees’ account can also carry a monetary value with it. For instance, a company in California recently estimated that every Twitter follower a person has to be worth $2.50 a month. With employees having tens of thousands of Twitter followers, the money can add up quickly. (Source 1 & Source 2).
Because of the expanding use of social media sites, coupled with the increase in connectivity between employers’ and employees’ use of the accounts, employees need to be educated. In order to insulate themselves from the possibility of losing their social media accounts to their employers, employees can do the following:
- Employees should use a personal email account to setup their social media account,
- Employees should use personal information like a home number and address
- Employees should use a personal photograph instead of a company logo
- Employees should use a personal name that does not contain the employers’ name in it
While this is still a relatively new area of law that courts are addressing, it is still one that people should be aware of so that they don’t have to go through a social media divorce with their employer. (Source 1 & Source 2).