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Two cases of social media as trade secrets may affect one another

Do employees or employers own social media accounts?

There’s a case currently making the rounds that has drawn a lot of attention to the question of whom social media accounts really belong to—employers or employees. The mobile phone website Phonedog.com is suing a former employee, Noah Kravitz, alleging that the 17,000 Twitter followers he gained while working there was the same as a customer list, and therefore did not belong to the employee.

But despite all the press it’s been getting, the Twitter case is not the first of its kind. Another recent case involved control of a LinkedIn account. Linda Eagle, was fired from Edcomm, the company she founded, which another company later bought. The new owners of Edcomm accused her of stealing trade secrets by keeping her LinkedIn account, and she responded by alleging the company misappropriated her identity. While Eagle was in charge of Edcomm, she instituted policies requiring employees to create their LinkedIn accounts using a certain template, the company claimed.

A judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently ruled that Eagles LinkedIn connections did not count as trade secrets because they were “generally known in the wider business community or capable of being easily derived from public information.”

Kravitz’s lawyers in the Twitter case have asked the judge to consider the LinkedIn case, the Wall Street Journal reports. But while Kravitz is accused of misappropriating trade secrets, the secrets in question are not his followers, but apparently the login information he used to access his Twitter account. So it remains to be seen whether the LinkedIn case will have any bearing on this one.

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