Apple’s Guidelines: The Legal Side of iOS Development Part I

You may think designing, implementing, and marketing an iOS app is a fairly simple process, legally speaking. However, like any other business foray in modern society, there are a number of legal pitfalls to watch out for whether you’re working on the next great iPad game or a fancy new competitor to Foursquare for the iPhone. In this series of posts on understanding the legal requirements for iOS developers, we’re going to be taking a look at everything—from start to finish—you need to familiarize yourself with before and during development of your new iOS app. Topics will range from forming your business, to naming your app, to copyrights and trademarks, to understanding Apple’s terms and conditions, to drafting customized terms for your app. Yeah, this series could get long.

We begin at the planning stage. You’ve decided you want to build an iOS app. Laid out all of the basic features you want it to have. Maybe you’ve even tinkered with a few designs for the GUI. Now you just have to join the Apple Developer Program.

So you sign into Apple’s website, follow the links to the Developer Program. Create a username and password, and you’re presented with a couple of documents you probably just click through without reading like everyone else. These documents, in the order you’ll probably come across them, are the Registered Apple Developer Agreement and the (more importantly) iOS Developer Program License Agreement. These two documents, along with a few others, dictate the terms of the relationship you have with Apple. And you really need to read them before you even think about developing your first app. (Although, it should be said that you generally have to join the developer program before you get to read the iOS Developer Agreement.)

While going through each and every term of the two agreements would be far beyond the scope of this post, we’ll quickly point out . After all, the more you follow along with Apple’s terms, the less resistance you’ll encounter when you submit your app. Some of the key points to be aware of include terms of third party licenses you may also be required to be bound by, such as Facebook and Twitter integration. Others include notices you have to provide to your users if your app needs to take information from other applications, most notably from a user’s Contacts app.

Once you’ve read (and reread) the requirements set forth in Apple’s documentation, you’re all set to start laying the foundations for your business and developing your app—or are you. Stay tuned for Part II of this series, on how to choose the best name for your iOS app.

Photo courtesy: Thomas Leuthard

Understanding the Difference Between Common Stock and Preferred Stock Equity Financing for Startups

Financing your startup is easily one of the most important steps in the process of developing your company—but is it also one of the most despised. When it comes to financing, you’re looking at several rounds, ranging from the very beginning when you’re just getting money from friends and family members who want to help you out from the kindness of their hearts all the way to the IPO and taking your company public. Through it all, though, there are three main ways to structure your company’s financing. Common Stock, Preferred Stork, and Convertible Notes. While this article is limited to a discussion of common stock and preferred stock, each type of equity financing has its own benefits and drawbacks, and hopefully this article will help you understand exactly what the differences are between the two stock classes and how each is used.

Common Stock for Startups

Of the three types of equity financing discussed in this article, common stock is probably the one you’re most likely familiar with. When you form a corporation at the beginning of a venture, this is most likely the stock you’re issuing to yourself and your cofounders. This type of stock is used throughout the early stages of fundraising, and is mostly given to the friends and family members who have helped you out when you’re just getting started.

From your perspective, this is the best type of equity to give to investors. It keeps everyone on the same playing field in terms of voting rights and special privileges, and you don’t have to worry (as much) about running afoul of some securities law by issuing something other than the common stock you started with. It’s the perfect way to get smaller investments from a larger number of individuals in a Kickstarter, crowdfunded kind of way. In short, if all investors are given common stock, everyone has the same rights, and that usually means the founders get to keep control over the company they built.

However, investors do not share the same perspective you do as the founder of your company. Investors are putting large amounts of their money on the line in hopes they’ll see some big profits in the future—and that’s why they hate common stock. When an investor comes calling, they want to have more control over the way the company is run, and common stock simply doesn’t grant them the ability to run the business in a way they’ve determined is the most prudent manner. Ultimately, because the investor will be negotiating with you at a time when your company needs the money, they’re going to have all of the leverage and you’re going to have to give up and accept you’re going to have to give them a class of stock better than common.

Preferred Stock for Startups

And that’s where preferred stock comes in. Preferred stock doesn’t really do much for the company itself, but means the world to the investors because of all of the additional bells and whistles that come attached to the stock to help increase investors’ reward while decreasing their risk. The main factor is that most of the preferences and rights associated with preferred stock go into effect at the time of a liquidation event—often purchase of the company, merger, public offering, or closure.

When it comes to preferred stock, all are not created equal. There are a number of different features that separate one class of preferred stock from another. It is important to keep in mind that a company’s preferred stock may have one of the following additional rights or all of the following rights—it really just depends on how well negotiations went and who the company has as its investors.

Conversion Rights: These are rights given to an investor designed to protect that investor from having her shares diluted by future financing rounds. After all, as more shares are issued, the fixed number of shares an early investor purchased becomes a lower overall percentage of the company’s equity. Generally, what happens with conversion rights is the investor is given the right to convert each share of their preferred stock into a larger number of shares of common stock.

Dividend Preference: While finding a dividend-paying startup is like discovering a dodo on your front lawn, dividend rights ensure a preferred stockholder gets their dividends before anyone else does—even if they have to wait years. The key here is some investors require dividends accrue even if they’ve not been officially declared by the board of directors. If this is the case, the dividends, which should have been paid out on a regular basis, grow in the background and are then paid to the preferred stockholder at the time of a liquidation event, thereby increasing the money made by the investor beyond just an increase in value of her stock.

Liquidation Preference: What happens with a liquidation preference is the investor gets her investment back before any of the common stockholders get a dime. These are triggered by any liquidation event (liquidity event). Something to look out for are liquidation preferences that provide a return on 1x the amount invested, though that’s a topic for another post.

Redemption Rights: The redemption right gives the preferred stockholder the right to force the company to repurchase its preferred shares. Generally, these are only activated after a specified amount of time and, for the most part, most redemption rights go completely unused—particularly in early investment rounds.

Voting Rights: Now here’s a big right for preferred stockholders that can mean a lot of different things. Voting rights can range from the ability to have the investor installed on the board of directors. They can also mean that each vote from a preferred share is worth more than that of a common share. Or, there can be protective provisions in place that give the investor the right to veto certain decisions made on the company’s behalf. Needless to say, the voting rights of a preferred stockholder are far beyond those of a common stockholder.

And those are the most common preferences and rights of preferred stock. Whenever you seek investor financing, always, and I mean always, consult with a startup lawyer to read the terms provided by the investor and help negotiate the deal.

Photo courtesy: Robert S. Donovan

3 Problems with Single-Member LLCs and How You Can Easily Solve Them

I help my clients form lots of business entities. While many of them are corporations, LLCs (Limited Liability Company) are, without a doubt, the most popular. It seems everyone these days wants to start their own LLC, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing—but there are drawbacks to having what is known as a single-member LLC.

Before we get into the reasons why a single-member LLC is not necessarily a good thing, we need to go over some of the background on LLCs in general. Time for a history lesson. The LLC was developed as an alternative form of corporate entity from the classic C-Corp, or corporation. Structured based on partnership rules, the LLC is technically just that, a fancy partnership recognized by state law and given added liability protection than what was provided by the typical general partner/limited partner model used by partnerships. If you have an understanding of the difference between partnerships and sole proprietorships, you may see where I’m going with this.

Partnerships all require more than one member. That’s why they’re partnerships, right? You can’t be a partner to yourself. If an LLC is considered to be highly similar to a partnership, then if you’re operating a single-member LLC, it’s like you’re operating a partnership with only one partner—and that’s a no-no. Traditionally, a partnership with only one partner, then, was a sole proprietorship, a type of business entity with undoubtedly the least amount of liability protection you could have. Therefore, if you’re operating an LLC as a single-member LLC, which makes you more like a sole proprietor than a partnership, that means you have less liability protection than if you have an LLC with multiple members. Which, of course, is why I, as a business attorney, always recommend including a second member when forming an LLC. People don’t always listen, but at least we can say we warned them.

OK, so back to the problems with the single-member LLC. Considering the above, we know these types of LLCs have less liability protection than if there were multiple members—but did you know that in some places they’re completely disregarded? Take the IRS, for example. When you register for an EIN (Employment Identification Number), they tell you your LLC will be taxed as a disregarded entity—just like a sole proprietorship. Not like a partnership. Not like a corporation. You have to affirmatively select one of those options. Even more amazingly, some states don’t even allow you to form a single-member LLC. California isn’t one of them, in case you were wondering. Though California will definitely disregard your single-member LLC (and hold you personally liable for damages) if your LLC is ever sued and doesn’t have enough capital to cover the damages if the other party wins.

To recap, the single-member LLC is problematic because it can be so easily disregarded. This means less liability protection, possibly less tax benefits, and the risk of personal liability if your LLC is undercapitalized.

So How Do I Solve This Problem? I Thought My LLC Was Supposed To Protect Me From Liability

The solution is easy: add another member to your LLC. We always recommend a family member, such as your spouse, partner, parent, or child. You don’t have to give them a 50% stake in the company, just a couple percent will do. You still get to make all of the important company decisions while they are just entitled to a very small share of the profits (and losses).

But I Don’t Want To Share!

There’s always those people who feel the’ve built their company by themselves, with their own hard work and capital, and they don’t want to share the membership interest in their LLC with anyone else. A completely valid point that I can definitely accept. If you’re one of those people, just keep in mind that you’re never going to insulate yourself from liability as well as you could by adding another member, but here are a few tips that may help you protect yourself slightly more.

Elect corporate tax treatment with the IRS instead of “disregarded entity” tax treatment that is default with a single-member LLC.

Keep unbelievably perfect records of all meetings and resolutions for your company. Even though you’re only one member, vote on everything. Document all major events. The more records your company keeps, the better.

Never personally sign for any LLC-related purchases or contracts. Always sign your name on behalf of your company.

Never mix money in your personal bank account with your company’s bank account. Keep them totally separate and keep excellent records regarding your LLC’s assets and liabilities.

Use your LLC’s EIN on all tax filings.

So there you have it, some reasons why a single-member LLC is not necessarily the best idea for forming your business entity, and some tips on how to get around the problems it presents.

Photo courtesy: Bob Jagendorf

Understanding the Nuts and Bolts of the DMCA Takedown Notice — The Counter-Notice

In Part 1 of this series on DMCA takedown notices, we discussed what a DMCA takedown notice is and what you need to include for it to be valid. In this article, we’ll go over the process for what you can do if you wrongly receive a notice.

The most common response to a DMCA takedown notice is to send what is known as a counter-notice. Much like the takedown notice, you must follow a specific set of instructions for your counter-notice to be effective. The requirements are as follows.
1. The counter-notice must be in writing.
2. You must identify the copyrighted material you were accused of infringing that was blocked by your ISP.
3. You must specify where the material was previously found.
4. A statement, under penalty of perjury, explaining you have a good faith belief the material was removed as a result of mistake or misidentification.
5. A statement that, if the dispute comes to a copyright suit, you consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court for your district.
6. Your contact information.
7. It must be signed by you.
When the counter-notice is complete, you must send it to the issuing service provider who will then forward it to the copyright holder or her agent.

Now, the counter-notice is a great device, but whether it is effective in the end really comes down to whether you, as the alleged infringer, had the right to be using the copyrighted work in the first place. And that’s a discussion that comes down to whether your use of the material constituted fair use or not. Now, fair use is an incredibly sticky area that could easily be discussed in a week’s (or even a month’s) worth of posts, so I’ll try to sum it up as concisely as I can here. Fair use is essentially the use of a copyrighted work in a certain way, such as for parody or instructional purposes, where the alleged infringer is not liable for infringement because of the certain circumstances of how the work is being used in that particular case. This is an incredibly fact-intensive analysis requiring the consideration of several factors, and you should discuss any type of fair use with a copyright attorney before you jump to the conclusion you are fairly using a copyrighted work.

Now the counter-notice is a great first step to dealing with a DMCA takedown notice that shouldn’t apply to you, but what if you get a takedown notice that is completely fraudulent on its face. Well, you have an option. The DMCA allows for claims against the copyright holder or her agent who issued the takedown notice if the issuer knowingly materially misrepresented the facts specified in the takedown notice. While it is true that’s a very high bar to overcome, if you are faced with a copyright holder who has absolutely no justification to send you a takedown notice, it may be in your best interest to contact a copyright lawyer to see if you have a case. After all, the DMCA provides for damages and attorney fees if you win.

Photo courtesy: gagilas

 

Understanding the Nuts and Bolts of the DMCA Takedown Notice — The Takedown Notice

The DMCA Takedown Notice is one of those seemingly mythical devices copyright holders use to help stymie the spread of their works over the internet. A lot of people don’t understand exactly what they are or how they’re used—but that’s what we’re here for.

Where Do These Things Come From?

DMCA takedown notices emerged from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (hence the DMCA part of their name). Essentially, they were designed to provide a kind of safe harbor for internet service providers (ISPs) when people were using their networks to share copyrighted information. A copyright holder can send an ISP a DMCA takedown notice informing them of the infringing activity being conducted through their network, the ISP disavows any knowledge of infringement but forwards the notice on to the actual infringer. If everyone is lucky, the infringer stops sharing the files, the ISP doesn’t get sued, the infringer doesn’t get sued, and the copyright holder can go about her business. It doesn’t always work as smoothly as that, however, and DMCA takedown notices given to non-American infringers almost always get tossed right into the trash.

What Gets Included In A DMCA Takedown Notice?

There’s been a lot of misconception lately about what you need to include in a written DMCA takedown notice and, particularly, how much these notices cost. You need the following items:
1. Signature of the copyright holder or her agent.
2. An identification of the copyrighted work or works that are being infringed.
3. An identification of the material that is infringing the work or the infringing activity you wish to stop.
4. Information that is sufficient enough to allow the ISP to locate the infringing material or activity.
5. The copyright holder’s (or her agent’s) contact information.
6. A statement explaining the copyright holder did not authorize the infringing material or activity.
7. A statement, under penalty of perjury, explaining the information in the DMCA takedown notice is accurate and the copyright holder (or her agent) is authorized to act to stop the infringement.
And that’s really all there is to it. Once the takedown notice is finished, all that’s left is to send it off to the service provider.

Can I Send A DMCA Takedown Notice Myself?

Of course. That’s part of the beauty of the DMCA, is allowing copyright holders and their agents the right to act without having to hire an attorney. Of course, improperly formatted DMCA takedown notices are almost always discarded immediately, so you want to make sure you draft one properly. And to that effect, you may want to consider hiring a copyright attorney. However, if you read the statute, 17 USC § 512, and feel you have a good grasp of what you need for a proper notice, then by all means, draft away.

Photo courtesy: gagilas

 

Why Your Business Needs a Trade Secret Audit

One of the biggest, and often most overlooked, assets your business owns are its trade secrets. A lot of time and energy go into talking about the big boys of intellectual property, like patents, trademarks, and copyrights—so much so that you’re probably wondering what a trade secret is. These are essentially the secrets a company keeps about things like inventions, secret formulas, customer lists, supplier contacts, and generally those bits of information that keep the company special, unique, and give it that edge against the competition. Famous examples include the formula for Coca-Cola and the KFC secret recipe.

But what are you supposed to do about these trade secrets? Firstly, you need to keep them secret. They’re only protected by law if nobody knows about them. Secondly, you need to know what they are, how they’re used, and how their protected—and you find all of that out through a trade secret audit. A trade secret audit is good to perform at any time, even when your business is in its prime, if you just want to know which trade secrets are the most important and how to best ensure they’re not going to get out into the wild. After all, because these secrets are so valuable to your business, you do not want them to be discovered by the prying eyes of your competition or released to the public by a disgruntled former employee.

So how does a trade secret audit work? It starts out with your business attorney putting together the party, an Avengers-like team, who will work on the audit. This team will be given access to the company’s trade secrets to determine what are the company’s secrets and how best to secure them. Once the team is assembled, they will be tasked with auditing the secrets. The first step to the actual audit, then, is to identify what assets/resources are trade secrets and what are not. This requires a comprehensive review based on the rules regarding trade secrets, and ultimately the team should determine exactly what constitutes a trade secret in the context of your unique business structure.

Once the trade secrets have been identified, the team is tasked with determining how well protected those secrets are and how many people know about them. Are they stored out in the open for everyone (including customers) to see? Are they sheltered away in a vault somewhere offsite? Are they stored on computers? In the cloud? Who has access to them? Are those employees with access to them governed by non-disclosure agreements? These are just a few of the questions the audit team should be asking. And once they have answered all of these main questions, the team should move on to figuring out where problem areas are, how to solve them, and how to use technological innovations to even further secure your company’s secrets.

As Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote, three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. (I’m not advocating killing people you tell secrets to, but just be aware of who you share your trade secrets with.) Trade secrets are incredibly important to your business, whether you know it or not, and you must do everything you can to keep them secret.

Photo courtesy: kennymatic

How to Protect Yourself—And Your Business—From Copyright Infringement Claims

How do I protect myself (and by business) from a copyright claim? This is a question you should be asking yourself if you have any internet presence. Whether it is something as significant as a full-featured web application, a simple blog, or even just a Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn account, you need to make sure you’re not accidentally (or intentionally) stealing someone else’s copyrighted work. Here’s a quick primer to keep you out of trouble.

Don’t copy another person’s work. Simple as that, right?

Well there’s actually a lot more to it. Copyright law in the United States is governed by Title 17 of the United States Code. The law protects all types of creative works, ranging from the written word, to drawings and photographs, to videos, and of course the often publicized sound recordings. On a very basic level, a copyright gives the author the right to modify, distribute, and perform their work however they choose. Of course, the author can also license her work to others, and can sell her work to whoever she wants. And she can send out cease and desist letters to, or sue, people who infringe on her copyright.

And that brings us to the three main areas you’re most likely to get in trouble with copyright law on the internet:

Written Content, Blog Posts, Articles

Here’s an easy pit to fall into. You find a blog post you really like that would fit absolutely perfectly with your blog’s theme. So you say, whatever, the post is really old, the original author probably isn’t getting too much traffic to it anymore, I’ll just copy it on my blog. No harm done, right?

Congratulations, you’ve just plagiarized the original author’s content and violated their copyright. Feel free to take the general idea of their post, but make sure you put it into your own words—that’s the easiest way to protect yourself from a copyright claim for stealing another’s written work.

Art, Photography, Videos, and Music

We have a very similar situation to the above. You see a picture you really like on Flickr, DeviantArt or some other image site. You like it so much, you feel it needs a new home on your own website. So you download it from the image hosting site, never bothering to read the license agreement, and upload it to your own site. The photographer sues you for infringing on his copyright, and you wonder why.

If you find a photo you want to use on your site, just contact the photographer and ask them if you can use it on your own site. The same simple technique goes for art, videos, and music (though be careful with videos and music, as there may be a number of parties who actuallyown the copyright). As long as the art isn’t for sale somewhere like a stock photo site, most artists will gladly let you post their picture so long as you give them a link back to their site. And if they don’t, find another artist who will let you use their picture instead.

HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Other Code

There’s been some debate over the years about whether web design code is copyrighted. The general consensus is yes, the scripts, codes, and other programming that goes into designing and developing a website are protected by copyright law—although the general look of the website (two column layout like our site, for example) is not.

So how do you get around a claim of copyright infringement even though you see a website you really like and you want to incorporate some of those design elements into your own site? Use their site as inspiration, but don’t copy directly from the CSS or HTML files when incorporating similar elements into your own site. Sure, you can view those files to figure out the general way the developer accomplished her task, but stay on the safe side and don’t copy her code.

Above all else, if you are unsure about whether something is copyrighted, play it safe and assume it is. And if you do find yourself embroiled in a copyright infringement suit, you would like to register a copyright for your own work, or you are concerned about whether something is copyrighted or not, contact a copyright attorney.

Photo courtesy: Instant Vantage

I’ve Just Received a USPTO Office Action! What Should I Do?

An Office action can be a scary thing for a would-be trademark owner. You think the registration process is going along fine when all of a sudden, you get this letter from the USPTO, the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Inside, much to your dismay, is not a registration certificate for your trademark, but a letter detailing exactly why the USPTO has refused to register your mark.

Before we get into any information about Office actions, a few words about this post. This is designed as an incredibly basic overview of what a USPTO Office action is, what you should do if you receive one, and the deadline for response. The details of the two types of Office actions—procedural and technical—are reserved for another post, as are what you should do if the USPTO’s examining attorney denies your application even after you feel you’ve responded to the Office action with sufficiency. Here, we’re just going over the very basics of an Office action and what you need to do about it in very general terms.

So what exactly is a USPTO Office action? Well, it is essentially a letter that outlines the procedural or technical shortcomings that have prevented the USPTO from continuing with the registration process for you trademark. These can happen to anyone, regardless of whether you have hired a trademark attorney to help you with the registration process, or whether you’ve decided to go it alone and submit the application yourself. Sometimes, the deficiency in the application can be so minor that the examining attorney at the USPTO may just call you (or your attorney) to see if they can fix the problem over the phone. However, any type of major shortcoming in the application will warrant the USPTO actually sending you a letter Office action.

Now, if you receive an Office action, you need to keep in mind that you’re suddenly put on a very strict schedule for response. As with everything else with the USPTO, dates are of the utmost importance—first use in commerce, renewals, and of course, Office action response dates. As a result, you need to keep in mind that you have six months to respond to an Office action. If you take longer than the six month window to respond, your application will be deemed abandoned and you’ll have to start all over with the registration process—fees and all. While there is a two month grace period beyond the six month window, you really need to make sure you make it within the six month deadline, as that should be plenty of time to respond.

After you receive an Office action in the mail, and you’ve read this post, the only question that remains is whether you should try to respond to the USPTO Office action on your own, or enlist the help of a trademark attorney.

Image Courtesy: anieto2k

7 Tests to Determine if that Independent Contractor You’ve Hired is Actually an Employee

Now that’s a long title.

But you’re not here for the title. You’re here for the content.

It happens to even the most careful of employers. You think you have hired an independent contractor only to find out later on that the person you hired should have been classified as an employee. You did your research. You read the California statute for independent contractors. The language is simple, right? “Any person who renders service for a specified recompense for a specified result, under the control of his principal as to the result of his work only and not as to the means by which such result is accomplished.” California Labor Code §3353. You figured that just meant a person who performs work independently and isn’t subject to your company’s rules. Or, to make matters worse, you thought that meant anyone who is not exclusively your employee but can work for other employers at the same time. However, while you may think this misclassification between independent contractor and employee is just an honest mistake, the difference can have a huge impact on your business—and your finances. After all, one simple misclassification can mean that you may owe back workers compensation, taxes, benefits, and unemployment insurance.

So what’s the point here?

Don’t misclassify your employees as independent contractors—or you will greatly regret it later on.

But what is an employer to do? Well, the best thing you can do is hire an attorney who can help you with employer protection, or someone similar. Before you contact that lawyer, though, there are a few questions you should ask about the employment relationship to help you see if you really have hired an independent contractor or if you’ve actually just hired a new employee.

  • Is the person performing the services engaged in a distinct occupation or business?
  • In the person’s occupation or business, considering factors such as the locality, is the kind of work usually done under the direction or supervision of the principal or is the work usually done by a specialist without supervision?
  • How much skill is required for the person’s occupation?
  • Does the person supply their own tools, instrumentalities, and place of work, or are the tools, instrumentalities, and place of work supplied by you?
  • How long will the services be performed?
  • Is the type of work you’re hiring the person for of the same type of work your business regularly does?
  • Do you believe you are creating an employer-employee relationship? Does the person you’re hiring believe they are entering into an employer-employee relationship?

The foregoing questions come from S.G. Borello & Son, Inc. v. Dept. of Industrial Relations (1989) 48 Cal.3d 341, 351, and the following should not be construed as legal advice in any way. I am providing you a very generalized look at California law on the topic. Also keep in mind that the Federal tests for an independent contractor relationship are different.

Image Courtesy: Victor1558

Is it OK to Spy On Your Employees?

Ah, the digital age. So much progress. So much productivity. So many more ways for your employees to avoid doing their jobs while they’re on the clock. And that’s where employee-tracking software comes in. For those who don’t know, this is perfectly legal software you install on your office’s computers to track what your employees are doing on the computer throughout the day. But as a manager, officer, director, or whatever position of power you hold in your company, you need to make sure you are implementing your employee-monitoring policies in a proper way. And here are three key points to keep in mind that can go a long way to properly implementing your policies.

Anonymity

While you may think the best policy is to hunt down those time-wasters so you can single them out for termination, a much better policy is to analyze the employee-tracking readouts in bulk to get a better feel for what your employees are doing on the whole—not necessarily individually. This way you can keep morale high since you’re not on a warpath to eliminate jobs, and you can avoid all kinds of wrongful termination suits that may spring up from disgruntled employees where terminated after you were spying on them.

Transparency

As with any company-wide policies—and especially ones with such negative connotations as employee-tracking—you need to be as transparent as possible when it comes to monitoring your employees. The more they know, the more at ease they will feel about the whole process. And the more at ease they feel, the more accurate the data you’ll be able to collect and analyze. And again, be clear with your employees you’re using that tracking information as a learning tool instead of a tool used to eliminate your staff based on their on the job browsing habits.

Good Judgment

Finally, the best way to properly institute an employee-tracking program is to make sure you use your best judgment. If something seems wrong, it probably is and you should not do it. Keep in mind whether you would like to be in the employee’s position and whether if you, in that position, would feel like your privacy was being completely violated by your employer’s actions. As long as you use your best judgment in implementing employee tracking, you’re already on the right track to staying out of trouble.

Image Courtesy: kevin dooley