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Employers Can Hijack Your LinkedIn Account, Court Rules

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 17, 2012 6:46 AM

'Keep your passwords to yourself' is the moral of a ruling this week on whether an employer can be liable for taking over your LinkedIn account.

Linda Eagle gave her LinkedIn password to a coworker while she still employed at Edcomm so that she could get some help managing the account. But Eagle was later fired from that job.

After she was dismissed Eagle's coworker changed the password on her LinkedIn account and the company changed the name and photo on the account to match the person replacing Eagle. She sued the company for hacking into her account but the court's ruling was unsympathetic.

Eagle sued the company under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) along with other claims, reports Ars Technica. The court ruled she cannot recover under the CFAA.

Like many other tort claims, the CFAA requires the plaintiff specify damages to make a claim. Eagle claimed that by locking her out of the LinkedIn account, her former employer damaged her reputation. She also claimed that she lost business opportunities because she was unable to respond.

That wasn't enough for the federal court judge who decided Eagle's case.

The judge ruled that Eagle's damages were too speculative and that there wasn't enough evidence of actual harm because of the password debacle. While the password change may have affected Eagle's job prospects, there's no proof she would have gotten any business had she been on her LinkedIn account.

Eagle's case will go forward in state court but without the CFAA claim there isn't a lot left to collect, according to Ars Technica.

The real issue is that Eagle broke the first rule of Internet security - don't tell anyone your password. Keeping your information secure is important for your present career and your future, as Eagle has shown.

For accounts that you access regularly at work, like LinkedIn or Gmail, make a password that's different from what you use for more important information like banks and credit cards. If you do have to share your password with a coworker make sure to change it soon after so the account stays private.

Don't be like Eagle and rely on other coworkers to manage your social networking. It doesn't look like a court will bail you out.

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