LinkedIn – impersonations, slurs and data theftPosted on

In January 2013 LinkedIn announced that it had reached the milestone of 200 million users. Even allowing for the fact that there are 1,404 registered users called Mickey Mouse that is still a startling statistic and shows the influence the professional social network has on modern business.

But, as Henry Drummond, the lead character in the excellent 1960 film Inherit the Wind, said: there is a price to pay for progress.

LinkedIn (and other social media) can have huge positive effects on your business, but there are risks:

(1) Impersonation

Just as with other social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, the Terms and Conditions of LinkedIn provide that impersonating a person or business is a breach which will lead to termination.

“As a condition to access LinkedIn, you agree to this User Agreement [not to] undertake the following … Falsely states, impersonates or otherwise misrepresents your identity, including but not limited to the use of a pseudonym, or misrepresenting your current or previous positions and qualifications, or your affiliations with a person or entity, past or present”

LinkedIn User Agreement (published 16th June 2011)

Using the website’s reporting tools may enable you to obtain a quick result to stop others from damaging your reputation. As discussed in an earlier blog, there are also legal options to deal with individuals who are attacking your business by impersonation.

(2) Slurs

The same laws apply to social networks as apply to newspapers and more traditional forms of media.

The key is often identifying the source. Every step that is taken online leaves a muddy footprint. It is often possible to identify a perpetrator by the trail they leave using technical, logical and/or legal tools.

Attempting to sue LinkedIn for the acts of one of their users is not the best use of resources, however, where necessary, it may be possible to require the website to reveal who is behind defamatory attacks.

Users outside of the United States enter into a contract with LinkedIn’s Irish European headquarters. Enforcing a so-called Norwich Pharmacal Order (a disclosure Order which requires a website or other host to reveal the IP address, email and other details used by a perpetrator to sign up to the service) is therefore possible under EU law.

(3) Data Theft

Who owns the data uploaded onto LinkedIn? The individual or his/her employer?

It’s a question which hasn’t been satisfactorily resolved but, the popularity of LinkedIn, means litigation on the point will follow soon.

For employers, it is crucial to have a robust Social Media Policy, Internet Usage Provisions and to ensure that employees are not uploading content which is clearly confidential and sensitive commercial data from the company’s networks. LinkedIn offers companies the opportunity to run their own groups and pages and it is crucial to take control of the social media conversations that are had about your company (a disgruntled “unofficial” alumni group on LinkedIn could be very damaging).

For employees wishing to protect their contacts they must ensure that their social networking is kept separate from their professional duties and obligations. If you wish to use LinkedIn to enhance your job prospects then using your personal email address is advisable.



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