What are employee’s rights when it comes to their company and their social media accounts? That’s a tricky subject, especially for one Pennsylvania woman who accused her former employer of violating anti-hacking laws by seizing her LinkedIn account when it terminated her.
Linda Eagle was running Edcomm when it was bought in 2010. But, as often happens in corporate acquisitions, she was fired a year after the deal was inked. That’s when things went wonky for Eagle: She quickly discovered that her assistant had changed the password to her LinkedIn account, and the company had swapped the photo and name on it with the data belonging to her successor.
And so she hit up an attorney and filed charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). To make this accusation fly, she needed to demonstrate that damages were done due to the defendant’s unauthorized access to a computer system. No problem, thought Eagle. She believed her reputation suffered in all this because she couldn’t reply to messages that were sent to her via the site, and was unable to respond to business opportunities — including one that she valued in excess of $100,000.
Even so, the federal court ruled against her. It deemed her accusations were too speculative to hold up under the CFAA: “Plaintiff is not claiming that she lost money because her computer was inoperable or because she expended funds to remedy damage to her computer. Rather, she claims that she was denied potential business opportunities as a result of Edcomm’s unauthorized access and control over her account.” So, says the court, a ding on the plaintiff’s reputation or loss of perceived opportunities simply don’t apply under CFAA.
Eagle also argued that changing the name on the account with another violated trademark law, which seems like a bit of a long shot, but that part of the case will proceed under Pennsylvania state law charges.
The takeaway here: Be sure to establish who owns your social media accounts when you join an organization. And if there’s any question, don’t give your passwords to an assistant or any other co-worker.
[Via Ars Technica]