Who owns your LinkedIn connections?

Have you ever read the small print on your LinkedIn account?  Me neither! 

Apparently though, the terms and conditions make it quite clear that the information on a particular account belongs to the account holder.  Seems fairly clear cut? The position, however, is not always so straight forward. 

In Whitmar v. Gamage (2013) an interim injunction was granted against a number of former employer who had set up on their own in competition with their former employer.  Various allegations were flying back and forth as is common in disputes of this nature, including who owned the contacts database and LinkedIn groups being used by the former employees.  In granting the injunction, the Court considered the former employees has misused “confidential information" and breached an implied duty of good faith.  

This raises the question as to whether LinkedIn connections amassed in the course of employment might constitute “confidential information”.  Certainly, direct dial numbers and e-mail addresses retained on company IT systems could be so considered.   With LinkedIn, however, the position is somewhat different as the information is personal to the account holder and is held on a LinkedIn server.  In the absence of further clarification from the Courts, the legal position remains something of a grey area.  

That said, cases like this highlight that it is prudent for employers to implement an effective social media policy to alleviate some of the uncertainty.  We can help you with that.  

For more information about this article or any other aspect of our business and personal legal solutions, contact Ferguson & Company now on +44 (0) 28 9032 2998.  There is no charge for initial telephone advice.

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