Steve Kuncewicz warns businesses to guard against legal pitfalls of using social media

Social media has much to offer business, but organisations need to be aware of the potential legal pitfalls, says Steve Kuncewicz, IP & social media lawyer at Manchester-based law firm Gateley.

Social media has much to offer business, but organisations need to be aware of the potential legal pitfalls, says Steve Kuncewicz, IP & social media lawyer at Manchester-based law firm Gateley.

Chief benefits include reduced recruitment costs, greater understanding of the next generation of recruits, breaking down traditional silos in business and greater awareness of brand performance. But there are several legal issues that businesses need to consider, Steve Kuncewicz (pictured) told attendees of a SpeakUp Live event in London.

If social media is used as part of vetting processes, for example, it is important candidates are made aware of that, Kuncewicz said. Businesses should also be wary of rejecting candidates based on their online presence, as that may be viewed discriminatory in terms of the Equality Act 2010.

"In this regard, businesses need to be aware of the possibility of vicarious liability for the actions of HR, so it is important to make it clear what recruitment teams can and cannot do with regard to using social media," Kuncewicz said.

Many organisations embracing social media are taking the precaution of monitoring staff activities. Just as with vetting processes, it is best practice to keep employees informed, says Kuncewicz.

A clear policy is important with employees using social media, Kuncewicz says. Policy should be communicated to all employees and reviewed regularly to ensure it remains appropriate.

Businesses must also ensure appropriate security measures are in place to ensure data protection as any monitoring of social media involves personal data and will incur obligations according to the Data Protection Act, says Kuncewicz. Failure to do this could attract monetary penalties from the Information Commissioner's Office of up to £500,000.

Confidentiality is another important area for businesses using social media to consider, he says. Businesses must make it clear to employees what is confidential information because, if confidential information is disclosed without consent, it could incur legal liability.

"It should also be remembered that there is an implied general duty of trust, fidelity and confidentiality between employers and employees that must not be forgotten with regard to social media content," says Kuncewicz.

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