Who owns you?

20 08 2011

Two items of social media news have caught my attention this week.

1. Who owns you? A legal case where journalist, Laura Kuenssberg, amassed an enormous Twitter following, tweeting as part of her job. Her account even included her employer – @BBCLauraK. All sweet.

Until she changed jobs to ITV. Who owns the Twitter account?

Laura K's new Twitter feed - @ITVLauraK

Of course this instance is particularly complicated for the following reasons:

1. the account includes the identity of both the journo and her employer. Both have reputations at stake. Did people follow Laura, or were they following a BBC journalist? Or both – surely her credibility and newsworthiness related to her employment. Apparently some of the tweets were processed by BBC producers, and the twitter-feed was promoted on air.

2. The employer had asked her to tweet during work time and about work related matters. Therefore is it part of the product she produced for her employer in her paid time?

3. I am guessing here, but she probably tweeted in her own time as well. This complicates thngs a little.

4. She is a journalist, so she retains the copyright to her product under copyright law. However the product is not the same as the medium (Twitter).

Seems to me the only option is for the account to be abandoned after messages directing followers to both an alternate BBC feed and an alternate Laura K feed. That way everyone loses equally, and users get to chose which one – or both – they want to follow.

And that does appear to have happened. If you have a look at Laura’s new Twitter feed – @ITVLauraK- she is both thanking people for following her to the new feed, and referring them on to other BBC journalist Twitter accounts. Very graceful.

5/11/11 UPDATE : A court case in the UK has awarded an employee’s Linked-In contacts to the employer. Apparently this relates to the majority of the contacts being related to the employees’ work for the company (as they would be – given that LinkedIn is a professional networking site). See here for more details


2. Not Liked!
The data protection authority in Schleswig-Holstein, a state in Germany, has apparently outlawed the Facebook “like” button. I kid you not. (And no, it is not April 1 – I checked.)

This relates to the Facebook company collecting data such as our IP addresses when we click “Like” on the sites we visit. This information is then passed on to company servers in the US and saved for 90 days. It is this collection and retention of data that the data protection commissioner alleges contravenes German and European law.

Website owners in Schleswig-Holstein were ordered to immediately disable the *Like* buttons on their sites, and threatened with legal action if they failed to comply.

German Facebook Stats from http://www.socialbakers.com

Users were urged not to set up Facebook sites and to avoid clicking *Like* buttons in order to prevent themselves being profiled.

Something about King Canute springs to mind, but this is not Germany’s first foray into the battle with internet giants over privacy laws. And they have won in the past.

Google has allowed German citizens to blur their houses in Streetview. Facebook has also put controls over its Friend Finder, which mines email address books to identify contacts.

So will Germany join China in banning Facebook entirely? It seems unlikely in a democratic country, whose citizens are currently heavy users of Facbeook and other social media. Over 20million germans have Facebook accounts, approximately 25% of the population.

Will the law-makers of Germany win over the corporates at Facebook? And on whose side are the private citizens of Germany?

And finally, the burning question for the day: is the term private citizen an oxymoron in this day and age?