As a result of the rapid shift in marketing from unilateral one-to-many communications, to the multilateral, many-to-many or many-to-one conversations enabled by Social Media, employees and employers are struggling to manage accounts that are used for both work and personal purposes.

This new phenomenon has benefits, but it also creates a number of legal challenges. For employees, it may result in greater efficiency, more opportunities for authentic customers engagement and the ability to stay on top of the most current grands and business issues. For employers, it presents opportunity to reap substantial benefits from lower communications and customer support costs. For in-house counsel, it raises a host of legal and practical issues with few easy solutions and significant liability and regulatory risks.

First, there are hardware issues. Smartphones, tablets and other personal electronics often have social networking capabilities built in. in addition, they contain contain both personal and business data. Because these devices are always on and always connected, they are more than just personal property. They have become essential business tools. For both sides of the workplace equation, employers and employees must understand where the privacy lines fall between personal versus work-related information.

Second, there are data issues. Employers must balance their needs to monitor employee usage, employees’ privacy concerns, and the risk of liability for theft or exposure of data if a device is lost or stolen, or from lack of proper safeguards on account usage. For in-house counsel tasked with drafting policies to address these risks, , Prior to implementation of any policy, the legal team needs to educate front line employees and management on reasonable expectations of privacy and security and the harms that the organization seeks to prevent.

Lastly, recent cases such as the Cristou v. Beatport litigation, highlight the struggle to define and control the beginning and end of employee social media accounts, ownership and protection of intellectual property and the post termination risks that arise from the absence of appropriate policies.

As we prepare to start a new year, the time is ripe to establish security and privacy policies governing creation, maintenance and use of employees’ social media accounts for work functions. In-house counsel must lead the charge to educate, inform and train employees about privacy, security and evidence-recovery implications associated with use of social media.

Sept. 5 2012:

From the FTc web site:

The Federal Trade Commission has published a guide to help mobile application developers observe truth-in-advertising and basic privacy principles when marketing new mobile apps. The FTC’s new publication, “Marketing Your Mobile App: Get It Right from the Start,” notes that there are general guidelines that all app developers should consider. They include:

Tell the Truth About What Your App Can Do. – “Whether it’s what you say on a website, in an app store, or within the app itself, you have to tell the truth,” the publication advises;

Disclose Key Information Clearly and Conspicuously. – “If you need to disclose information to make what you say accurate, your disclosures have to be clear and conspicuous.”

Build Privacy Considerations in From the Start. – Incorporate privacy protections into your practices, limit the information you collect, securely store what you hold on to, and safely dispose of what you no longer need. “For any collection or sharing of information that’s not apparent, get users’ express agreement. That way your customers aren’t unwittingly disclosing information they didn’t mean to share.”

Offer Choices that are Easy to Find and Easy to Use. – “Make it easy for people to find the tools you offer, design them so they’re simple to use, and follow through by honoring the choices users have made.”

Honor Your Privacy Promises. – “Chances are you make assurances to users about the security standards you apply or what you do with their personal information. App developers – like all other marketers – have to live up to those promises.”

Protect Kids’ Privacy. – “If your app is designed for children or if you know that you are collecting personal information from kids, you may have additional requirements under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.”

Collect Sensitive Information Only with Consent. – Even when you’re not dealing with kids’ information, it’s important to get users’ affirmative OK before you collect any sensitive data from them, like medical, financial, or precise geolocation information.

Keep User Data Secure. – Statutes like the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act may require you to provide reasonable security for sensitive information.

Law professor says social media can pose legal problems in Courtroom
Winnipeg Free Press
SASKATOON – The dean of law at the University of Saskatchewan says using social media can have negative consequences in the Courtroom – Business – Winnipeg Free Press.

Eight Ways Your Employee Social-Media Policy May Violate Federal law
AdAge.com (blog)
All employees have certain rights under federal law that social-media policies can’t restrict.

New Law to Force Identification of Trolls Set to be Unveiled
Technorati
Home / Social Media / Articles / New Law to Force Identification of Troll. … is behind the attacks on them online without having to resort to expensive legal action.

A blue wave of change Cleveland County law enforcers join move toward social media alerts
Norman Transcript
Lauri Stevens, a social media strategist at LAwS Communications, a Boston-area company, said law enforcement agencies nationwide are beginning to embrace social media.

Social media helped, hurt in hunt for suspect in triple shooting
Washington Post
Social media at times was a help, other times a hindrance in the search and eventual arrest of a suspect in the triple fatal shooting at an Alabama apartment complex.

Use social media, but use it responsibly, UAE conference hears
gulfnews.com
He said, “We do not monitor social media networks. People have the freedom to speak within the legal framework. There is no law specifically for twitter, but …

Police: Street gangs embrace social media, too
Kansas.com
Beard gave a presentation on gangs, the Internet and social media at last week’s Midwest Law Enforcement Conference on Gangs and Drugs, held in Wichita.

And…don’t forget to check out my presentation on the Law & Social Data panel at #TechWeek Chicago 2012.

The past few years have witnessed an explosion of legal and regulatory activity involving social and other new media. This session will examine several key areas, including copyright, trademark and related intellectual property concerns; defamation, obscenity and related liability; false advertising and marketing restrictions; gaming; data privacy issues presented by social media; and impacts of social media on employees and the workplace. Attendees will learn how to identify legal risks and issues before they become full-scale emergencies and how to develop appropriate policies and guidelines covering social media activity.

If you can’t make it, check out the Slideshare presentation here.

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