A recent court case, Eagle v. Moran, raises new questions regarding employee LinkedIn accounts and opens the door to ownership issues across the accounts of all social media platforms. Linda Eagle, former President of Edcomm, had come across predicament when she left the company. She created an account on LinkedIn to promote her company like millions of people in this country do as well. Edcomm’s SOP has its employees use LinkedIn accounts to increase professional connections. If they left the company, it was Edcomm policy to ‘mine’ the data on the account. When Ms. Eagle employment was terminated, an Edcomm employee who knew her password changed it, thus barring her from accessing the account she created.
Ms. Eagle filed suit, claiming Edcomm had illegally accessed the account and the intrusion was a violation of the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act.
Edcomm’s response was that they were justified in the seizure because it was company policy to create and maintain LinkedIn accounts. It’s important to keep in mind that creation of the account took place while Ms. Eagle was employed at Edcomm.
The Pennsylvania District Court ruled in Favor of Edcomm. Ms. Eagle was not successful because she could not definitively prove a tangible loss of damages or a compromise of her reputation. The court left the door open for Ms. Eagle to challenge the law on different grounds.
The situation Ms. Eagle landed herself in is a prime example of the legal world adjusting itself to the issues modern technology creates. It remains to be seen how the court would have ruled if Ms. Eagle established her account and had it maintained prior to her tenure with Edcomm. This will most definitely play out in courts across the country and address all platforms. HR manuals and employment contracts may also be changed to included specific provisions that negate ownership questions.