Who controls a LinkedIn® account is the subject of an ongoing federal case filed by a company’s former president whose account was taken over by the company after she was fired. Round one of the fight just went to the employer.
Linda Eagle was the president of Edcomm, a banking education company in Pennsylvania, until she was terminated in 2008. During her employment the company encouraged Ms. Eagle to establish an account on the popular business connection website, www.linkedin.com, so she could list Edcomm as her employer and promote the company’s services on her account. She did as asked, using her LinkedIn® account to create professional and social connections. Edcomm also required Ms. Eagle to provide it with her password. The company followed what it described as a “general policy” that it would own any employee’s LinkedIn® account following termination of employment for any reason, and could mine the account for information and continue to use it so long as the company did not steal the former employee’s identity.
Immediately after Ms. Eagle was terminated, she attempted to access her LinkedIn® account but could not because Edcomm had already changed her password. Soon after, Edcomm changed Ms. Eagle’s profile to reflect the name and picture of its newly-hired president. Perhaps inadvertently on the company’s part, Ms. Eagle’s awards, honors, connections and recommendations, however, remained on the account. As a result, Ms. Eagle’s business and personal contacts were routed to a page featuring the company’s new president.
Ms. Eagle sued Edcomm, contending that it had violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the federal Lanham Act, which prohibits false or misleading advertising. Recently, the federal court dismissed both of those claims, finding that Edcomm’s actions did not violate either federal law. The case is now moving forward only on the state law claims, including invasion of Ms. Eagle’s privacy through misappropriation of her identity.
The outcome could present important issues for employers and employees, all worth following as the case unfolds.
For more information please contact Josh Glikin at 410-583-2400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.