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Does your business have an internet and social media policy?

The Internet is now an essential aspect of almost every business but in legal terms, it creates significant risks, not least because it is so fast moving and so difficult for a business owner to control, in terms of legal and business risk. The internet also presents challenges because the law is struggling to keep up and due to the fact that it can be virtually impossible to determine, in the case of e-commerce transactions with an entity based abroad, which jurisdictional laws would apply in the event of a dispute.

In terms of potential problems with staff, the main risks created by the internet and social media are:-

  • Employees wasting working time, using the internet for personal browsing and social media during working hours - a clear policy should be adopted on this, but difficulties may still arise relating to monitoring and enforcement, due to privacy laws. Careful consideration of this issue and good advice are recommended. As with any policy, consistent and fair enforcement are also imperative;
  • Risks to internal security systems due to browsing activities which may expose systems to viruses. Inappropriate browsing of material such as pornography or downloading of music and videos unlawfully and in breach of copyright may also be an issue;
  • Mobile internet - staff may well use company phones, laptops or other devices, making it even harder to monitor and control;
  • Social media use - issues can include who owns social media accounts, your business or the staff member and inappropriate comments made on social media can have disastrous reputational issues for your business;
  • Contract law issues - a member of staff may commit your business to a contract online, unless you make clear that only certain staff have authority to bind your business. This may well need to be communicated to third parties you deal with;
  • General employment law risks and issues; and
  • Disclosure of confidential information about your business or clients.

If you do not already have an Internet use and social media policy, you should strongly consider getting one which has been carefully thought through and to ensure that the policy is consistent with other employment law policies, contracts and your business generally. It is also vital that any policy is backed up by ongoing training and monitoring, and that the policy is expressly stated to be variable because opportunities and risks are constantly evolving in this age of digital revolution.

If this is something you would like to find out more about, please contact Stewart Pettigrew of the Corporate Team on 0141 333 6750.

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