Lines between personal and company data becoming blurred

Failure by SMBs to adopt formal corporate social media policies, as highlighted by a survey by SpamTitan, could be storing up legal trouble for themselves in the not too distant future.

An audit of 200 SMBs worldwide revealed that while almost all allowed Internet access and some social networking applications in the workplace almost half (49 per cent) admitted they had not taken even basic steps towards a social media policy such as deploying a Web filter.

Many SMBs are now truly embracing social networking applications by adopted them within their overall marketing strategies. But it is almost impossible to track who owns this data as social data content is aggregated from site to site.

“As business embraces social networking as a way to propagate messages and build their brands the line dividing personal and company data is becoming increasingly blurred,” said Alastair Purdy, partner at Purdy FitzGerald Solicitors. “The important thing is to take steps to protect yourself or your company as much as possible in advance. Failure to do so will potentially leave the SMB sector with significant legal issues over data ownership.”

The legal position is at a very early stage of development. This is illustrated in a recent case involving the UK arm of a US business to business media publishing group ruled that the employer owned the outlook contacts of a former journalist employee even though this list contained both work and personal contacts some of which had been brought to the company by the employee.

This blurring between work and personal becomes even more problematic in the social networking sphere. In another recent UK case a recruitment consultant moved confidential contact information to his LinkedIn account whilst employed at Hays Recruitment. This decision was one of the first to highlight the tension between businesses encouraging employees to use social networking websites for work but then claiming that the contacts and content remain confidential information at the end of their employment.

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