Could Your Employer Claim Your Facebook?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

dlblogmirrored.pngDavid Lacey, one of our many bloggers, was in sunny Sutton this afternoon, being treated to lunch by the Computer Weekly team. I was invited along and, not being one to refuse a free Italian meal, accepted.

Now, I must confess that I don’t read the whole of RBI’s blogging output. I’m no computer security boffin and so David’s output is not, on the whole, in my area of expertise or even interest. However, the discussion over lunch, particularly around the personal and social factors around computer security, was fascinating. Straight after lunch I checked out some of David’s posts and this post in particular:

Now we have a problem for employees, with a recent court ruling reported in The Register which suggests that employers might have grounds to demand ownership of their employees’ social networking information, if it has been prepared in the course of their employment. This particular ruling forced a UK journalist to hand over the contents of his contacts list to his employer after he had left the company. According to legal experts, the key determining factor is not where the data is stored but the set of circumstances under which it was created.

Ouch. Think about it: how much is your social networking activity purely work-related? My Twitter friends are about 60% work contacts. So the company could demand access to that. My Facebook? Mmmm. Only about 20% – but still significant.

If this judgement is extended in the way David theorises it could be, it could have very serious consequences indeed.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.