Do You Own Your Social Networking Friends? Or Does Your Employer?
from the do-you-own-your-rolodex? dept
In the sales world, you’re often judged on the size and quality of your “rolodex” of contacts. No one expects a salesperson jumping from one job to another to somehow “forget” everyone they know — or to cough up their entire list of contacts to the previous company. Yet that seems to be what happened in the UK. Slashdot points us to the news of a court ruling where a guy was forced to give up his LinkedIn contact list to his former employer after he left the company to start his own business. In this case, the original company had actively encouraged its employees to make use of LinkedIn, even though it was under the individual’s control, rather than the employer’s.
Expect to see plenty more lawsuits like this going forward. For many users of social networks from LinkedIn to MySpace to Facebook, the connections you make blur the lines between professional and personal — and the questions of who actually “owns” those contacts will become a legal issue that the courts will decide over and over again. Of course, the truth is that this is a silly debate. No one “owns” a contact in the first place. If the company has a rule requiring employees to hand over contacts to the company, then it should employ a CRM system which the company controls. Otherwise, reaching into a personal social networking account seems to go beyond what’s reasonable.