When I was working on legal website, I was shocked to discover that a certain law firm in Dublin was claiming to own LinkedIn profiles of its staff. The matter came up when a member of staff was leaving the firm and found himself to be locked out of his own LinkedIn profile.

How could this happen? Is it legal?

Well yes, it is legal. And it happened because the LinkedIn profile was set up using a company email address.

If there’s one thing you can do now to feel smugly satisfied that this will never happen to you:

  • Login to LinkedIn
  • Click on profile >> edit profile >> click on contact info
  • Make sure the email address on there is your personal one

Let’s go back and look at the legalities of this case. There was a 2007 case in the UK of Penwell Publishing versus Nicholas Ornstien, Daniel Noyau and Junior Isles in which the Judge found:

information was prepared and maintained on PennWell’s computers during Mr Isles’ employment with PennWell and for the purposes of that employment and is therefore confidential information which is the property of the Claimant.

In addition, in 2008 UK recruiter Hayes successfully argued that an ex-employee’s LinkedIn connections belonged to it.

The individual concerned was forced to give up his account, and ‘hand over’ his connections. The implications of this ruling are ominous, yet not often discussed in social media circles.

This person, who blogs about recruitment, posed the question of who owns LinkedIn profiles to his network and the results were interesting:

    • 76% of respondents believe that their LinkedIn profile belongs to them, and not their employer
    • Of the 24% who disagreed, all were legal professionals specialising in employment law or HR professionals who were investigating precisely this position with their current companies.

So, that brings me back to the point:

If there’s one thing you do today, it’s to claim legal ownership on your LinkedIn profile.  Click on profile >> edit profile >> click on contact info >> and change that email address to your personal one.

You can thank me for this advice anytime!

 

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