A New York banker is caught in a bizzare legal dispute that highlights the growing tension around individuals and their social media accounts after they part ways with their employer.
We reported on Monday about Noah Kravitz, who was sued for $340,000 by an ex-employer who claimed his Twitter account was rightfully theirs, and that each follower he had absconded with was costing them $2.50 per month in lost revenue.
Today we read on TechDirt about Linda Eagle, a Manhattan banker, who was one of three founders at the Edcomm Group. Her firm was purchased by Sawabeh Information Services in 2010 and she was terminated in June 2011.
Ms. Eagle had provided her LinkedIn password to Edcomm, and after she left, the company apparently went in and changed her name and picture to somebody else at the company. Ms. Eagle sued them for improperly accessing her account.
Edcomm’s response was that her LinkedIn was really their investment: “The Counterclaim Complaint expressly alleges that, with respect to the LinkedIn account connections and content, Edcomm personnel, not Dr. Eagle, developed and maintained all connections and much of the content on the LinkedIn Account, actions that were taken solely at Edcomm’s expense and exclusively for its own benefit.”
At this point, for high level executives, it is becoming routine to have social media accounts handled by staffers or PR departments. No one would be surprised to learn AOL employees are the ones manning Arianna Huffington’s Twitter account.
Over time, however, these profiles become valuable collections of contacts, nodes in a personal network that translates to a marketing or sales platform. Edcomm felt it had lost valuable business relationships when Ms. Eagle left, a Rolodex that was contained in large part among her LinkedIn connections.
As Venkat Balasubramani points out, LinkedIn does distinguish between professional and personal accounts, and Ms. Eagle’s was clearly the latter. And anyway, Mr. Balasubramani writes, how effective could they really be with a hijacked account? “Contacts are personal, and particularly in the social networking context, I would think it would be difficult for one person to take advantage of another person’s contacts. I could see Edcomm sending out a spam message to Eagle’s LinkedIn contacts, announcing that Eagle is no longer with the company and prospective customers should contact Edcomm directly, but apart from this, is it really realistic for Edcomm to continue to exploit Eagle’s contacts?”