Currently there are very few cases in the UK relating to social networking sites, such as FaceBook, MySpace, or LinkedIn.
But two that are of relevance are: Applause Store Productions Limited and Mathew Firsht v Grant Raphael in July 2008 and Hays Specialist Recruitment (Holdings) Ltd and Hays Specialist Recruitment Ltd V Mark Ions and Exclusive Human Resources Ltd in April 2008
The case of Applause Store Productions Limited and Mathew Firsht v Grant Raphael, in July 2008 , relates to the creation of a false and malicious profile on FaceBook of Mathew Firsht by Grant Raphael. The case, which saw the claimant awarded £22,000, showed decisively that Web 2.0, and its prominent place it has in ours lives, is understoof by the courts. The information proving the case was the IP addresses obtained from the FaceBook servers, these were obtained by a Norwhich Pharamcal, or Search and Seizure Order. An excellent summary of the case is available here. The law firm Olswang represented the claimants.
Mark worked for Hays, a recruitment company, for 6.5 years and collected contacts with his LinkedIn profile during that time.Mark stated he was encouraged to do this by Hays. After leaving Hays Mark set up his own recruitment company, Exclusive Human Resources. Recruitment companies are very much based on contacts, and his LinkedIn contacts where no doubt valuable in setting up the company and taking business from Hays to Exclusive.
But who owns the contacts? Taking a database of contacts is very clear cut, but retaining your own social networking profile, created while at work who owns those? Hays alleged that Mark Ions obtained the contacts through their own database, and therefore wanted Mr Ions to disclose the contacts he had, as they believed he was in breach of his contract.
Mark Ions contract stated that: “You must not, during the course of your employment or at any time thereafter, make use of, or disclose or divulge to any person, firm or company, any trade secrets, business methods or information which you know, or ought reasonably to have known to be of a confidential nature concerning the businesses, finances, dealings, transactions, client database or other affairs of the Company or the Group or of any person having dealings with the Company which may have come to your knowledge during the course of your employment unless it is necessary for the proper execution of your duties here under, and you shall use your best endeavors to prevent the publication or disclosure of any such information.”
Mr Ions clearly had contact information in his LinkedIn account that were Hays contacts, the question is not whose they were originally, but how they got there and who controls them now? The court noted that Mr Ions appears to have searched through the Hays contact database and used this method to add contacts to his LinkedIn account. Mark Ions then argued that because they were on his LinkedIn account, they were no longer confidential.
The judge, Mr Justice Richards, stated that: “The upshot is therefore that Mr Ions had “Hays linked contacts” on his network. He has given no indication of numbers but they are ikely to be more than a handful, because he says that he would not able to recreate the contact list. He states in his evidence that “all of the information was put on to the site during the course of my employment with the Applicants.” His case, denied by Hays, is that it was done with Hays’ consent and that once uploaded and once the invitation to join his network is accepted, the information ceased to be confidential because it was accessible to a wider audience through his network.”
Based on this, and the issues relating to disclosure of Part 31 of the Civil Procedure Rules, the judge ruled that Mark Ions should discloses his contacts.