The danger faced by employers of their confidential information being released via social media websites reared its head once again in a high profile matter involving Lewis Hamilton and Formula One team Maclaren. William Walsh from the Employment Team considers the steps employers can take to protect their businesses.
Lewis Hamilton caused a stir when he posted a "telemetry sheet" on Twitter, showing sensitive technical data about his and teammate Jenson Button's performances. Maclaren had the tweet removed within an hour, but not before many of Hamilton's one million followers had already re-tweeted the information. Maclaren has since downplayed the importance of the information divulged, while rival teams have expressed both amusement and disbelief.
The issue highlights the very real dangers faced by employers following the rise of social media websites. Not only is it very simple for employees to place confidential matter in the public domain, it is also almost impossible for employers to retrieve or block the information.
What does this mean for employers?
Certain implied duties exist which give a degree of protection, however employers in industries where confidentiality is important will need to include express confidentiality terms in their employees' contracts. They should also have well drafted policies in place governing appropriate use of social media websites.
Employers may also wish to limit the scope for abuse in the first place by blocking access to social media websites and restricting the use of mobile telephones at work. Such steps have to be weighed against any potential commercial benefits of them being used as legitimate business tools, together with possible staff backlash if the measures are not proportionate.
If an employee divulges confidential information in breach of contract, a number of options are available. Internally, employers can commence a formal...