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BEST PRACTICE: Burning digital bridges

Social networking sites have grown from a place where friends can communicate within their social circle and beyond, into forums where businesses can create new opportunities and pool ideas.

Many companies are now taking advantage of such sites for business development, by encouraging their use in developing client relationships. Inevitably, this has given rise to concerns as to how employers can protect these relationships when workers leave and seek to retain contacts made during employment.

This is not a new challenge. Employees have long left businesses with details of customers in their heads. However, taking away lists would normally offend against confidential information provisions in a contract of employment. How can these principles be applied to online networking, where precedents regarding security of information are still being set?