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Legal Risks posed by Social Media

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Lance Michalson

Lots of IT legal risks are posed by the use of social media. Many of these risks stem from the medium itself and many from the fact that the lines between our professional and personal lives are blurring: we are taking our work home with us and often bringing up personal lives to work.

The concept of an “IT legal risk” has been around for some time and we have indeed been speaking about it for the last decade.  However, it was formally used for the first time in 2009 in the IT Governance Chapter of King III.  King III specifically states that an “IT legal risk arises from the possession, ownership and operational use of technology that may result in the company becoming a party to legal proceedings”.

IT legal social media risks include the following:

Reputational damage to an employer

The old distinction between work and home is breaking down and there is no reason why an employer will not be entitled to take disciplinary action against an employee who posts and inappropriate tweet or status update on their Facebook wall if it impacts on the employer, regardless of whether it was posted at home or at work, or on the employer’s computer equipment or the employee’s.

Breach of confidentiality

One of the biggest social media risks is the disclosure of company confidential information, trade secrets, know-how and other proprietary information.  The common law does incorporate an implied term of confidentiality into every contract of employment and most employment contracts do have confidentiality clauses in them.  Employers should however look at their own unique circumstances and decide whether or not it is necessary to include, or even expand upon the existing confidentiality clause to deal with potential social media risks.

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These risks can most effectively be managed by developing a social media legal strategy.

For more information about our social media services, click here.

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