Social media and data protection

Across every industry, many companies are finding it essential to have a presence on one or more social media channels, such as Facebook, XING, LinkedIn, Twitter or even through their own blogs. Social media includes offerings where the users are not just passive consumers, but have a direct communication channel with the company.

A social media presence can be used to offer general information about the company and its products as well as providing part of the customer service.

The wide variety of potential uses for social media corresponds to an equally broad range of legal issues relating to these communication channels.

Social media guidelines

It begins with the question, in terms of labor law, of whether social media offerings can be used professionally and/or personally at work and by whom; this de facto affects every company. This initial question cannot be answered without considering its effects on the company, including in a legal sense. If the company wishes to avoid specific social media platforms, we must determine how they can be effectively prohibited while still taking all of the company’s processes into account. Here, too the primary focus should be on labor-law pitfalls.

On the other hand, if the social-media question is answered with a “yes”, the company’s internal interactions with social media must also be planned carefully. If such usage is allowed in general, the employer must ask whether it makes sense to institute a behavioral codex to prevent an employee’s statements from causing legal problems for the employer or damaging the employer’s reputation.

Furthermore, there should be a clear separation of personal and commercial activities in social media services. For one thing, this ensures transparency about whether something is an “official” statement or a personal opinion. For another, separate accounts make it much simpler to determine who “owns” the network of contacts in the event that the employment contract comes to an end. All of these points are discussed as part of the potential social media guidelines. In the best-case scenario, these are a comprehensive set of regulations governing the company’s interactions with social media. We are glad to support you with our legal expertise when it comes to designing and implementing legally binding services through behavioral requirements, labor-agreement obligations and works agreements. Not only do we value data protection, but we also deliver a solution that represents all of the applicable legal areas.

Dealing with statements in the context of social media

Even if the company’s internal dealings with social media run smoothly, personal statements made by employees can still create an unintentionally negative image of the employer. For instance, an employee could privately make a negative comment in his or her own social network about a product manufactured by the employer. If the person’s profile shows that he or she works for that company, there is a clearly negative implication for the employer.

If you are in a similar situation, we will be happy to show you labor-law and/or media-law options for dealing with these types of statements.

In the area of copyright and media law, we ask whether and to what extent the provider of a social media site can be held liable for statements made by users of this site.

Our timely, skilled consultation allows you to take the proper steps to minimize your liability risk in these cases.

Beyond the purely legal dimensions, how a company handles negative comments is key to its public image. Careless handling of negative user comments can quickly become a PR disaster if the online community feels misunderstood or even censored. We will also be glad to advise you on how to prevent negative viral effects through careful communication with the users.

Data protection in social media

When social media offerings are being developed, the need for a wide range of data protection requirements is often overlooked. For instance, if suitable applicants are to be attracted using social media, or if the team is to be introduced through these channels, comprehensive requirements must be taken into account to ensure employee and applicant data protection.

For the sake of user relationships, it is extremely important to integrate social plug-ins (for instance the Facebook “Like” button) in a way that complies with data protection regulations. One problematic issue in integrating these social plug-ins is that they communicate with the social networks by default. Simply by being integrated into a website, in other words whether or not the user clicks on them, they send data to the operator of the social media platform. If you do want to use social plug-ins, our specialized team will be glad to show you how to ensure data protection wherever possible, for instance using the 2-click solution.