Facebook may blow up in your face
Facebook could prove a minefield for businesses, local experts have warned. They say many have created profiles for their businesses without reading the small print - which could see them banned from the site or facing costly litigation.
The warning comes from West Midlands law firm Manby Steward Bowdler, which has set up an IT law unit in order to meet the burgeoning demand for specialist advice in relation to IT issues including data protection.
With 39 million members and rapidly growing, Facebook is rarely out of the media. Because of this huge growth in social networking, many businesses want in on the act and are loading their profiles. Unfortunately, many are doing so without fully understanding the legal ramifications.
Neil Forrest of Manbys says many businesses are unaware Facebook is for personal profiles and not for businesses and highlights the phrase in Facebook's terms and conditions "you have properly gained access solely for your personal, non-commercial use".
He also points out that every user agrees not to register for more than one user account, not to register a user account on behalf of another, or register a user account on behalf of any group or entity.
Mr Forrest adds that breach of Facebook's terms and conditions may not only lead to being banned from future use but if a user has any issues with the way Facebook processes or uses information collected by it they have agreed to 'final and binding arbitration' under Delaware law - probably in a Californian court.
Facebook thrives through communication between users such as quizzes, pictures and blog postings. However, Facebook has licence to do whatever it wants with your content for its own commercial gain unless you actively remove your content from the site. In theory, you could upload a photograph and Facebook could sell it without you receiving a penny. If you write lengthy notes about business related issues, these could be turned into a book by Facebook for its gain, not yours.
In theory at least, businesses which piggyback on the personal profiles of its own staff may also be in breach of UK data protection laws.
"It is amazing the number of people who forget this when they are online and disclose personal or company information. Think twice about what you are going to post on the site," says Mr Forrest.
"If businesses are worried about how they are using Facebook or social media I would suggest they seek specialist legal advice."