Linda Eagle filed a lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania alleging claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) and various state law claims. Eagle v. Morgan, 2013 WL 943350 (E.D. Pa. 2013). The federal court previously dismissed the federal claims under the CFAA but permitted the state law claims to stand. Now, the court has issued a ruling on the state law claims.
Linda Eagle (“Eagle”) was president of Endcomm when it was acquired by another company in 2010. Shortly after, Eagle was terminated. Prior to her termination, Eagle shared her LinkedIn account information with another employee and permitted that employee to access her account and update her profile. The dispute began when that employee changed the password on the LinkedIn account after Eagle’s termination. Eagle’s name and picture were then replaced with the name and picture of her successor. A portion of Eagle’s honors and awards remained on the profile but were now attributed to her successor.
On March 12, the federal court ruled in Eagle’s favor on her claims for unauthorized use of name, invasion of privacy, and misappropriation of publicity. The court determined that Eagle had a privacy interest in her name, picture, resume, and that her name “had the benefit of reputation, prestige, and commercial value within the banking education industry.” The court found significant that someone searching for Eagle on LinkedIn “would be unwittingly directed to a page with information about” her successor.
Eagle’s victory was hollow, however, as the court determined she suffered no economic loss as a result of the misconduct. Accordingly, the court did not award Eagle any damages. Edcomm brought counterclaims against Eagle, one of which alleged that Eagle misappropriated the LinkedIn account as her own when in fact it was Edcomm’s property. The court stated, “Edcomm never had a policy of requiring its employees use LinkedIn, did not dictate the precise contents of an employee’s LinkedIn account, and did not pay for its employees’ LinkedIn accounts.”
The lesson from this case is that employers need social media policies that clearly define who owns company-related accounts and who is permitted access to company-related accounts. Such policies should address these issues for both current and former employees.