- Social media provides significant opportunities for employees at all career stages seeking to create career opportunities, and for businesses seeking to expand their brand awareness, markets and talent pools.
- Case law is clear that employees cannot misuse their employer’s confidential information, but Australian courts have not determined who owns an employee’s social media accounts and connections, and whether these constitute protectable confidential information of an employer.
- Australian courts will ultimately need to establish when a social media contact should be recognised as an actual or prospective client, subject to protection as confidential information and by post-termination restrictions.
Professional networking platforms like LinkedIn, and those platforms primarily focussed on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, can create significant commercial opportunities for businesses – but with those opportunities come certain risks.
With more than four million users and counting, LinkedIn is one of the new frontiers of business when it comes to professional networking. A professional’s LinkedIn profile becomes an online CV that showcases their skills, experience and industry connections to potential clients and employers. A personal brand and online presence has become critical for creating career development opportunities for employees at all career stages. For businesses, online professional networks provide a valuable asset with almost unlimited potential to be leveraged for marketing, recruitment and business development initiatives. Used properly, professional networking platforms can provide employers with access to vast talent pools and potential clients. Used improperly, however, these platforms can expose employers to significant risks to their workforce, client base and ultimately, their bottom line.
The intersection between social media and the workplace raises significant and diverse employment law issues, from work health and safety issues relating to cyber-bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination risks, to privacy and workplace surveillance issues. Some of the most interesting issues arising out of employees’ use of social media are the ownership of social media accounts and customer connections, the ability to protect sensitive commercial information in those forums, and the ability of an employer to use post-termination restrictions to prevent solicitation of those connections.