AUSTIN, Texas — A divided House vote provides momentum for Texas employees who wish to shield personal text messages, email passwords under a bill backed by Democratic State Rep. Hellen Giddings and given preliminary approval Thursday.

Proponents say Texas workers need the same social media protections provided in several other states. The bill prohibits employers from asking job applicants or employees for passwords to access their Facebook, Twitter or other personal accounts. Opponents argue it will provide “safe harbor” for employees to steal proprietary information at the workplace through their personal accounts.

No specific penalties are spelled out for employers who would violate the law.

The Texas law is another reminder of the ongoing evolution of Social Media law and regulation as legislators and private businesses struggle to understand how these technologies affect everyone’s rights, obligations and remedies.

If you or your business is concerned about social media legal and regulatory compliance, contact David Adler at Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler. 866-734-2568 dadler@lsglegal.com.

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.

1. Content & Marketing

MutualMind Signs Agreement With LexisNexis to Offer Advanced Social Media
MarketWatch (press release)

PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — MutualMind, an award-winning social media technology developer based in Dallas, Texas, announced an agreement today with LexisNexis, a leading provider of legal content and technology solutions.

Facebook: Should Law Firms Bother?
Business 2 Community

While consumer brands have embraced Facebook as a key tool in building deeper customer engagement, the biggest social network largely remains terra incognita in the legal world. The sector has certainly harnessed professional networking sites.

2. International

Bahrain may act against social media abuse
Trade Arabia

Legal action could be taken against people in Bahrain, who incite violence and spread sectarianism on social media, said a top official. The initiative comes as a new code of honour for social media users is set to be launched by the Bahrain Bloc.

3. Law Enforcement

Infographic: How police investigators are using social media
Police News

An overwhelming majority of investigators using social media for investigative purposes are “self taught,” according to a new survey of 1200 Federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals.

Social media for investigators: Why Police departments should invest in training
Police News

That’s but one of the many conclusions found in a comprehensive new survey — conducted in a partnership between PoliceOne and LexisNexis Risk Solutions — focused on the impact of social media on law enforcement in criminal investigations. Among the …

4. Employees & Workplace

What your social media profile is telling future employers? (Take our poll)
Plain Dealer

The State of Maryland already has passed a law forbidding employers from asking job candidates for their passwords to Facebook and other social media sites, and California is considering a similar law. 01fgSCREEN2.jpg View full size · The Society for …

Social Media in the Workplace – July 2012
JD Supra (press release)

With an understanding of some of the relevant issues, employers can implement meaningful and reasonable policies and guidelines for employees and respond appropriately and legally to social media issues that arise. Below are a few of the discrete issues …

5. Financial Services

Quest IRA, Inc. Develops New Interactive Website & Social Media Campaign
Equities.com

The trick for us is trying to provide legally correct information, in such a way that is easy to understand, to the American public so that investors truly understand their options with retirement savings.” “Internet, the online experience and social media are the 21st Century.”

The New Social Metrics
Bank Technology News

Below are methodologies and metrics for determining the ROI of these specific social media use cases. The metrics roll up to three major categories of benefits: revenue impact, operational efficiencies, and legal and compliance risk avoidance.

David M. Adler, Esq. is an attorney, author, educator, entrepreneur and partner with Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler, LLC, a boutique law firm in Chicago, Illinois created with a specific mission: provide businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in order to drive innovation and increase overall business value.

We meet this challenge by providing legal counsel on issues related to creation, protection and commercialization of intangible assets, our comprehensive understating of the relevant law, our team of seasoned professionals and our client service philosophy.

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