Legal Download 2.0 - Blogging in the Corporate World

Tsung Wei Wong considers the legal risks and issues that companies need to be aware of in the world of blogging

Tags: DLA Piper Middle EastUnited Arab Emirates
  • E-Mail
By  Tsung Wei Wong Published  August 3, 2008

Last month, we looked at the general legal issues surrounding blogging in the UAE. In this month's Legal Download, we continue our review of this theme, by examining the legal risks and issues that companies need to be aware of in the world of blogging.

Given the popularity of blogging, it was only a matter of time before companies started taking an interest in blogging as well.  Some companies that have joined in the act include Boeing and Generally...

Corporate blogs are subject to the same legal issues and risks as those faced by personal blogs created by individuals, such as intellectual property, content and potential defamation issues (some of which have been highlighted in our previous Legal Download v2.0). In many cases, such risks may be even greater for a corporate blog, if only because a company is a far more noticeable target than an individual.

Are company employees blogging on behalf of the company?

Where a company's blog is written by its employees on behalf of the company, then generally speaking, the company as a whole is vicariously liable for anything that those employees write on that blog. From a legal risk management perspective, the company needs to ensure that it has clear corporate policies on what should or should not be posted on the blog, and these corporate policies need to be properly communicated to those employees.

Some of the issues that should be included as part of such a corporate blogging policy include:

  • Ensuring the suitability of employees authorized to blog on the company's behalf;
  • Having clear checks and guidelines for information that is to be posted on the blog; and
  • Having clear guidelines to ensure that the blog supports the company's corporate objectives.

What information can be posted?

Some company blogs may collect information from its readers, whether through online surveys or cookie technology. Companies which do so should consider any data protection legislation that may apply. For example, companies which operate in the UAE's Dubai International Financial Centre are subject to its Data Protection Law 2006, and need to be aware of their legal obligations under that law in relation to the consent requirements and processing of personal and sensitive personal data.

In addition, companies need to be wary of inadvertently posting information on its blog that may be deemed to be confidential, and whether it be the company's own information or information belonging to a third party. In either case, the consequences of such inadvertent disclosure could be potentially disastrous. For example, disclosure of a company's trade secrets may mean that the information loses its confidential status. Disclosure of financial or other confidential information may also expose a company to claims of security fraud or insider trading.

Some blogs allow readers to provide comments in response to blog posts, as a way to make the blog more interactive, or to allow the company to obtain feedback from its customers. Obviously however, such a comments facility can be abused, and the company runs the risk of blog comments being unreasonable, uncalled for or even nasty. This could put the company in a difficult spot. Censorship of the offending comments by the company may lead to criticisms of such censorship, but conversely, a failure to censor the comments could potentially damage the company's reputation or even contravene applicable laws. Careful consideration needs to be applied as to whether or not to allow comments on a company's blog.

Are company employees permitted to blog?

As a separate but related issue, companies should also consider if they are willing to allow employees to have personal blogs.  Apart from the obvious productivity issues in allowing employees to blog during work hours, companies should also be aware that it may potentially be vicariously liable for content posted on an employee's personal blog. Again, having clear company policies on such issues would help a company to deal with them in advance.

The above issues should not discourage companies from having their own blogs, but rather, are meant to highlight a few of the potential risks and issues in corporate blogs, and some practical measures to deal with them. Having a clear idea of your company's objectives is very often the key to ensuring the success of your company's blog.

The author, Tsung Wei Wong, is a Legal Consultant with the Technology, Media & Commercial Group of DLA Piper Middle East LLP

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code