A Pennsylvania court recently found that a plaintiff who alleged her employer unlawfully took control of her LinkedIn account could not proceed on claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Lanham Act, although the court did find that the former employee could proceed on her state law claims for invasion of privacy, identity theft, conversion, and tortuous interference. The plaintiff was the president of Edcomm, Inc., a company that provides financial training services. The former employee maintained an account on LinkedIn to promote both Edcomm and herself. Under the plaintiff’s management, Edcomm had a policy encouraging employees to establish LinkedIn accounts. When employees left the company, however, Edcomm asked for their log-in information, believing it owned the accounts and could use the account information and connections to further the company’s business. After the plaintiff left the company, Edcomm accessed the account she had established and changed the password so that the plaintiff could no longer gain access. The company also changed the profile to display the name and picture of the plaintiff’s replacement. The plaintiff brought suit, alleging that Edcomm’s actions in denying her access to the account violated the CFAA, the Lanham Act and several state laws. The court found for Edcomm on the plaintiff’s CFAA claim, as the plaintiff had not shown any damages stemming from her inability to access the account. The court also found for Edcomm on the Lanham Act claim, as the plaintiff had not shown that people viewing the account after Edcomm took it over would be confused into thinking that the plaintiff endorsed the account or would believe that the plaintiff’s successor, whose picture and name were on the account, was really the plaintiff. Trial on the remaining counts is set to start today (October 16).
Tip: Employers may encourage employees to maintain accounts on social media sites. This case is a reminder, however, that employers should establish clear guidelines as to which social media accounts are owned and controlled by the employer, even if used by the employee during their employment.