Feeds

Man accused of using LinkedIn to steal clients

Ex-employee must disclose online contacts, rules UK court

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

An ex-employee of recruitment firm Hays has been ordered to disclose details of his profile at social networking site LinkedIn. Mark Ions set up a rival agency and is accused of using LinkedIn to steal clients. He says Hays encouraged his use of the site.

Ions worked for Hays Specialist Recruitment for six and a half years before leaving to run his own agency, Exclusive Human Resources, which he set up almost three weeks before resigning.

Hays alleges that while still an employee Ions copied and retained confidential information about clients and contacts of Hays. The firm says that Ions used that information for his own venture and that he breached his contract of employment. Hays went to the High Court in London to seek pre-action disclosure from Ions and his firm, i.e. an order to disclose information that Hays could use as the basis of a subsequent lawsuit.

Hays examined Ions' email account after his departure and found evidence that Ions had invited at least two Hays clients to join his network at LinkedIn, a social networking site that focuses on professional relationships. It suspects him of inviting many more.

Ions told the court that he had been a member of LinkedIn for over a year, with the encouragement of Hays. LinkedIn is widely used by recruitment firms and Ions said that others in Hays were also members.

In a letter to Hays' solicitors, Ions offered to delete "the entirety of the Hays linked contacts" from his LinkedIn network though he did not say how many there were. Hays demanded full details and warned him to preserve this evidence. Ions then said he had arranged for the whole of his old LinkedIn network to be deleted. He said he had no other copy of the list and could not recreate it. The US operator of LinkedIn agreed to preserve the data pending the outcome of the case.

Ions argued that all the information was put on the site during the course of his employment. Mr Justice David Richards wrote, "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."

His lawyer said it was not Ions' action in uploading email addresses to LinkedIn, but the invitees' acceptance to become connections which resulted in the information which resulted in the information becoming available on his network and it is not then confidential but publicly available, at least to his other connection.

"In my view, this breaks down at the first stage," wrote Justice Richards, dismissing that argument. "If the information was confidential, it was Mr Ions' action in uploading the email addresses which involved a transfer of information to a site where at least the details of those addresses who accepted his invitation would be accessible by him after his employment had ceased."

"The evidence suggests that he may have done so, not for the benefit of Hays but for the benefit of his post-termination business," he wrote. "If so, even if confidentiality in the information was thereafter lost, Hays may well have a claim against Mr Ions."

Later in the judgment, Justice Richards observed of the email addresses, "Even if he uploaded them with authority, it is difficult to imagine that the authority was not limited to using them in the performance of his duties as an employee of Hays."

Ions was ordered to disclose his LinkedIn business contacts requested by Hays and all emails sent to or received by his LinkedIn account from Hays' computer network. Ions was also ordered to disclose all documents, including invoices and emails, evidencing his use of the LinkedIn contacts and any business obtained from them. Ions was told to ask LinkedIn for the documents.

Hays' additional request for a copy of Ions' entire database of clients was rejected as being "simply a fishing expedition" and "plainly too wide."

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Govt control? Hah! It's IMPOSSIBLE to have a successful command economy
Even Moore's Law can't help the architects of statism now
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives
Department of Transportation starts cogs turning for another wireless comms standard
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
New voting rules leave innocent Brits at risk of SPAM TSUNAMI
Read the paperwork very carefully - or fall victim to marketing shysters
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.