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Seeing that I’m on vacation this week, I thought I’d go a bit off topic (sort of) from typical security posts and share my off-the-cuff thoughts about this article titled, “Experts: Twitter account case may blaze new trails in social media law.”  The subject is, of course, interesting to those of us blogging and using our Twitter accounts for Tripwire, and it’s interesting well beyond Twitter — the questions raised extend to any personal account used for professional purposes (i.e. used for the benefit of your employer).

These are the salient points presented by the article:

  • A former employee, Noah, is being sued by his former employer, PhoneDog
  • Noah, while employed by PhoneDog, created the Twitter account @PhoneDog_Noah
  • PhoneDog is claiming that they “[gave] use of” that account
  • Noah linked this Twitter account to his personal e-mail address
  • After leaving PhoneDog, Noah changed the Twitter handle to @noahkravitz
Here are my thoughts on the situation:
  • Noah should never have used his employer’s name in his initial Twitter handle if it was really for personal use.
  • PhoneDog should have considered a social media policy before allowing any employee to use such services on the company’s behalf — this is exactly a type of situation policies are for.  Such a policy could have stated that you create the account, and do not use your personal name in the handle.
  • Use of personal accounts for employment purposes seems like something that warrants additional compensation, especially if the personal account may be subject to some form of future forfeit or censorship.
  • I think the court will find in favor of PhoneDog, because it seems as though Noah’s job responsibilities required a Twitter account and he made a Twitter account for the express purpose of supporting PhoneDog.  In other words, creation and use of the account was for the employer and within Noah’s job responsibilities, so he was compensated.
This doesn’t necessarily clear things up for others.  There are, however, some interesting points of precedent to consider here.  When you use a company name to “label” a Twitter account, are you not really conveying the sense that the account is for that company?  Does a form of compensation, regardless of account label, in effect “buy” the account from an employee?  If a personal account gains followers while it is used for professional purposes, should the employee remunerate the company for those followers at termination (can we even determine why a follower is following and whether they “stick”)?  There are a lot of questions.
Does your company have a social media policy, and if so, does it address employee use of personal accounts for work purposes?