Does your company have a policy regarding social networking sites? If so, then watch out. Recently, in an order filed on October 4, 2012, Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment dismissing Linda Eagle’s claims that she had been damaged by her former employer’s theft of her LinkedIn account.
In the suit, Dr. Eagle alleges that while she worked as the President of a company she helped form in 1987 (Edcomm, Inc.), she created an account on LinkedIn–the world’s largest networking site for professionals. To assist with her maintenance of her LinkedIn profile, Dr. Eagle gave her password to a fellow employee.
According to the order, Edcomm had a policy that “when the employee left the company, the company would effectively ‘own’ the LinkedIn account and could ‘mine’ the information and incoming traffic, so long as it did not steal that former employee’s identity.” (Order, p. 2.) Consequently, when Dr. Eagle attempted to access her LinkedIn account after being terminated by Edcomm, she was unable to do so–her password having been changed by the company, and her name and picture being replace by those of her successor. Dr. Eagle alleged that business contacts or potential customers trying to access her profile were presented with her experience and credentials, but not with her name or contact information. Dr. Eagle claimed upwards of $100,000 in potential losses due to the inability of potential customers to contact her through her LinkedIn profile.
Judge Buckwalter granted summary judgment for Edcomm, however, based primarily on the fact that Dr. Eagle provided no support for her damage claims and that most of her claims (loss of reputation, loss of business opportunities) are not technically compensable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1030. After the grant of summary judgment on the CFAA and Lanham Act claims, Dr. Eagle only has state law claims on conversion remaining, which will continue to be heard by Judge Buckwalter under supplemental jurisdiction.