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Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Location Based Social Media: Stalk Me, Rob Me, & Tell My Boss I’m not Where I Should Be

In Social Media on February 2010 at 4:23 pm

First, what is location-based or location aware social media: location aware social media allows users to opt-into an interface that can pinpoint their location when they post through GPS, mobile email, or text.  In essence, online readers know where you are, when you are there, and what you may be doing there.

As soon as we heard:  where you are and when you there, our ears perked up and we thought, “Would I want someone that I don’t know – who is not even in my online friend circle – to know exactly where I am?”

So what are the potential risks in location-based social media?

(1) Your Boss Finds Out You Aren’t Grabbing that Cup of Coffee

The first thing we thought of was that users may be unwittingly giving away their information to everyone on these social media platforms.  Something as innocent as running out to get a cup of coffee, then Tweeting quickly about an Hermes scarf as you stand outside the Hermes store near Rockefeller could send a message to your boss that you are not where you are supposed to be.  In a world of digitally alert bosses, human resources, and co-workers, the last thing you want to do is appear to be somewhere you are not supposed to be.

Twitter & Facebook posts have gotten people fired.  Those aren’t protected classes under employment law.

(2) Your Personal Safety is at Issue

Having spent some time working in crimes against women & children in the District Attorney’s office in Atlanta, we automatically thought of one glaring issue:  predators & minors.  With the explosion of MySpace in the digital sphere, there was a critical concern of safety issues with minors connecting with predators online.  With something as innocuous as an online post an a location-aware site, these same minors are exclaiming their location to those same predators.

(3) Everyone Knows if You are at Home or Not

There have already been burglaries that may be linked to online status postings:  “Out of town for the week!”  on Twitter or “Won’t be home till 2am” on a public profile on Facebook.  While it’s true that most people don’t make a habit of running through social media posts to plan their next heist – it’s also not unheard of.  A location based social media platform would make it increasingly easy for these crimes to occur, because there will be an online database of all the empty homes in that location.  To tempting to resist?

We’re not saying that location based social media is a bad thing, but as with all things out there:  realize & assess the risks!

by: Benish Shah, Esq. & Sheheryar Sardar, Esq., Sardar Law Firm LLC

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Assess, Influence, & Evolve

In Entrepreneurs and Social Media, Social Media on February 2010 at 8:31 am

Social Media is akin to the e-mail era:  it is so convenient that it will not fade away and social media law must follow the pace of  social media. The varying forms of social media communication may differ in popularity on and off, but the existence of the social media mediums must become of paramount concern to businesses as they move forward.  Effective corporate communication must incorporate social media, and here are 3 simple steps to help ensure that your company’s social medial lawyer can help you responsibly embrace advances in social media based communication:

(1) Assess

The first step of responsible corporate communication through the social media medium is the involvement of a corporate attorney to understand and analyze the risks to your company through the usage of social media.  Without the involvement of a legal entity, the risks will not be apparent.  A corporate attorney with an understanding of social media related law & risks must assess: (1) how does this company use social media?  (2) do company employees using social media on a personal level create a risk to the company? (3) do company managers create a risk to the company through social media usage? (4) how can the company develop policies and monitoring strategies to avoid potential risks?

(2) Influence

Upon developing a thorough understanding of a company’s social media usage and the risks involved, a social media lawyer would help companies develop a place to influence the company’s social media usage.  Much like the usage of e-mails and instant-message type online discussions, social media usage can be monitored by companies when used on company laptops.  Develop a written company policy that outlines the use of social media through company computers, and by those claiming to represent the company in the online world.

Encourage your employees to be responsible when using social media such as Twitter, Yammer, or Facebook to name a few.  Read through blogs discussing your company or written by your employees.  Comment on interesting blogs or Twitter posts about your company.  Influence the online conversation on various social media platforms.  Embrace social media by participating in it.

(3) Evolve

Remember that social media is an evolving platform, as are the risks.  With new additions to the social media world, new risks will inevitably arise.  Your company must evolve with these advances and fads, while having a well-hashed out written policy on social media as a whole.

It is critical to evolve while developing a strong and resilient social media policy.  But if you decided to assess, influence, and evolve – your company will benefit from the world of free social media publicity and corporate communication.

by: Benish Shah, Esq. & Sheheryar Sardar, Esq., Sardar Law Firm LLC

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Embrace Social Media, But Minimize the Risks

In Entrepreneurs and Social Media, Social Media on February 2010 at 5:47 pm

Social media is here to stay and it can be great for your company. So instead of trying to ban it – or block it from your company computers – its good practice to embrace the world of social media. But know the risks, and prepare for them. Here are a few good risk analysis guidelines for social media use:

(1) Find out the most commonly used social media outlets by your employees, managers, partners, etc.

(2) Establish a set of grounded HR policies regarding social media use that are in effect during and after an individual’s employment.  Include guidelines on corporate use of social media– acting on BEHALF of the company – and individual use through company computers.

(3) Communicate with your employees on the company’s social media policy.  This is the age of cyber-fast communication, so as a business owner/management, this is critical. Tell your employees why social media policies are IMPORTANT to the well being of the company.  It should never be about scaring them, but about showing them the benefits of the policies regarding social media use.

(4) Mandatory training that is short and simple.  Have your employees certify, in writing, that they understand the social media policies as relating to your company.

(5) Track and audit the use of social media through the company infrastructure.  This will allow to develop sound policies for the future, as well as correct possible gaps in your current HR policies.

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Think Before you Tweet

In Social Media on February 2010 at 4:38 pm

Tweeting has largely replaced “talking” in many forms. Companies communicate with clients and potential clients through Twitter, and employees often rely work-related stress to friends and follower through their constant Tweets.  But in this jump into social media, no one has stopped to think:  this is social media, but it’s still media. How can this effect me, my business, or my job?  That’s why lawyers are called in by companies – to assess the risk before it develops.

There is no question that social media outlets such as Twitter are dominating the online community.  A 2009 study conducted by Nielson found that two thirds of the world’s Internet users partake in some form of social media, spending more time on these sites than on e-mail.  So what are some of the risks associated to popular social media such as Twitter?

Before putting your thoughts – especially your company’s thoughts – on the Internet, consider these factors:

Negative Publicity. Not all publicity is good publicity and negative publicity reaches customers and potential investors/employees much faster.  And those negative comments also get re-tweeted!  What can you do as a company:  develop a comprehensive policy as to what employees can say on behalf of the company.

Intellectual Property Exposure without NDAs.  When you introduce your idea to a person or an investor, the first though should be:  how do I protect my idea? Most companies/entrepreneurs do this through the use of an NDA – a “Non Disclosure Agreement.”  By putting your ideas and details about your product online, you are risking your trade secrets and intellectual property!

Investigations.  Think of it this way, if employers do online searches to check out potential employees – regulatory agencies use tools such as Twitter to keep tabs on companies that can be potentially investigated.  Many cases are won and lost through a simple statement made by an employee, a manager, or a company representative.  And Tweets count as a “simple statement.”

by:  Benish Shah, Esq.Sheheryar Sardar, Esq., Sardar Law Firm LLC

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Social Media: What Entrepreneurs Need to Know

In Entrepreneurs and Social Media, Social Media on February 2010 at 11:06 pm

Social media has grown exponentially in the last decade, with enterprising companies creating uncontested market

Social Media Lawspace in the online and digital industriesWhether its new search engines or unique services offered to niche markets within the browsing population, social media has transcended all ages, incomes and geographic regions. Due to the fast-paced nature of social media, ambitious entrepreneurs often overlook the need for contracts for their business. While staying ahead of the competition is paramount, creating and maintaining contracts will only enhance your edge.

Before you even start a company, or else plan on developing professional relationships with external agencies, prospective partners and employees, it is critical to understand the laws of contract. When there is a dispute, and often there is at least one during the development phase, all parties will look to the contract. As such, having a lawyer on board from the outset will always be an advantage for your business.  Here is a brief list of issues to consider:

  • Non-Compete Clauses: you want to protect your business by impeding your partners’ or employees’ rights to directly compete with your business if they leave. This would be framed within a specific time period, limited to a geographic area, but is very important because they possess inside knowledge of your competitive advantage.
  • Non-Solicitation Clauses: you don’t want your partners or employees soliciting your colleagues or your customers away from your business.
  • Non-Disclosure Agreements: NDAs are no unreasonable, so long as the language in the contract is clear on protecting your right to confidentiality.
  • Moonlighting and Loyalty: This may or may not be necessary, depending on the nature of your business. A lawyer could assess its need once you discuss your goals.
  • Ownership of Intellectual Property: You may want to protect any processes, templates, systems, or methods created by an employee by retaining any IP rights over them. A contract on the outset will provide necessary protections so that work product created under your business does not ultimately go to a competitor.
  • Use, Licensing, Technology Transfer: Social media companies will likely need to outsource its products or services through other digital or online mechanisms, usually other companies.Often, partnerships are created to facilitate such business development. In this context, having contracts to protect the use and licensing of your work product, so that it doesn’t leak or be misused, will make your transitions to the next stage much more efficient. Similarly, if you are interested in commercially exploiting your methods, processes or inventions (Technology Transfer), you will need contracts to protect your financial interests.

Spending a little time on developing a legal structure through contracts, while slightly time-consuming, is a real investment in your social media business. Your business will make or break based on the contract, often when you must make strategic decisions for the success of your business. Retaining a contract lawyer will only enhance the probability of that success.

by: Sheheryar Sardar, Esq., Sardar Law Firm LLC

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