A South African High Court  on March 8, 2017 reportedly gave a former estate agent five days to correct the employment information on his LinkedIn profile.

Three years after Mr. van der Schyff resigned from his position at Danie Crous Auctioneers, his profile still reflected that he was employed there. Despite two years’ worth of requests from the company to correct the information, eventually followed by a demand from its lawyer, van der Schyff refused to do so.  The company then approached the court for an order to compel the profile correction.

The court granted the order on the basis that van der Schyff’s profile was misleading. The company successfully argued that it did not want to be associated with its former employee and that his misrepresentation on LinkedIn could cause serious harm to the company’s image.  Although it has not yet done so, the company said that it reserved the right to claim any damages resulting from its name being linked with van der Schyff’s.

 What are the risks of an outdated profile?

Mr. Van der Schyff could not (and did not) argue that he had simply forgotten to update his LinkedIn profile after he resigned, as he was asked to do so on many occasions. But many users, particularly those who are only semi-active on social media sites might legitimately forget, or think it unimportant, to keep their profiles up to date.

Here are some reasons why users should:

  1. Inaccurate information, like Mr. van der Schyff’s employment data, may amount to wrongful misrepresentation. If another person suffers a loss as a result, a user may face a damages claim.
  2. Using a former employer’s trade name or logo may be an intellectual property infringement.
  3. An inaccurate or outdated profile is bad for the user’s own brand. LinkedIn is specifically aimed at facilitating professional connections. Many people promote their businesses on other social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter. Incorrect profile information not only makes the user appear unprofessional, but may actually prevent potential clients or other business connections from contacting the user.

 What does LinkedIn say about profile accuracy?

When a user creates a LinkedIn profile, each user must agree that the profile information will be truthful.  Each user also agrees not to:

  • act dishonestly or unprofessionally, including by posting inaccurate content;
  • misrepresent current or previous positions and qualifications; or
  • misrepresent affiliations with a person or entity, past or present.

LinkedIn has policies and procedures to handle complaints about content which is inaccurate, unlawful or violates third parties’ rights.  Inaccurate profile information can be reported here.  If LinkedIn verifies the complaint, they may remove the information or even disable or terminate the offending user’s account.

This court ruling may also prompt employers to start taking action regarding inaccurate public social media profiles of former employees.