Farm­ing, so­cial me­dia , GDPR: Are you ready for it all?

Em­brace so­cial me­dia but be aware of your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and le­gal obli­ga­tions

Irish Examiner - Farming - - NEWS - Karen Walsh

So­cial me­dia has be­come in­creas­ingly preva­lent in the mod­ern world and has be­come a key tool for busi­nesses when mar­ket­ing their prod­ucts. So­cial me­dia can be an es­pe­cially use­ful plat­form for show­ing how the farm­ing process works and for pro­mo­tion of agri­cul­ture. Con­sumers are highly ac­tive on so­cial me­dia plat­forms, and are con­stantly be­ing fed in­for­ma­tion. So­cial me­dia is not just a way for farm­ers and busi­nesses to com­mu­ni­cate with the con­sumer, it also al­lows the farmer or busi­ness to learn from the con­sumer. The main so­cial me­dia plat­forms are Face­book, Twit­ter, In­sta­gram, Snapchat and LinkedIn. Most busi­nesses have their own web­sites and so­cial me­dia pages. When us­ing so­cial me­dia, the fol­low­ing le­gal is­sues have to be con­sid­ered: Pri­vacy; Free­dom of ex­pres­sion; Data pro­tec­tion; In­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights.

If you have farm em­ploy­ees, it is ad­vis­able to have a clear pol­icy on so­cial me­dia in place. What is also crit­i­cal is that you make your em­ploy­ees aware of such a pol­icy. In case law be­fore the courts, the Em­ploy­ment Ap­peals Tri­bunal has re­fused to up­hold other­wise fair dis­missals where so­cial me­dia pol­icy was un­clear. Defama­tion is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon in Ire­land with re­gard to so­cial me­dia web­sites. Defama­tion is nor­mally where an un­true state­ment has been pub­lished in re­spect of a per­son or group of per­sons that has dam­aged that per­son’s rep­u­ta­tion in the eyes of rea­son­able mem­bers of so­ci­ety. Pub­li­ca­tion would in­clude ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, email and in­ter­net post­ings, as well as pub­li­ca­tions in news­pa­pers and on tele­vi­sion or ra­dio. Peo­ple of­ten think you can­not de­fame some­body on so­cial me­dia but that is not the case, and it is im­por­tant to be aware of this. Defama­tion law in Ire­land is gov­erned by the Defama­tion Act 2009. Peo­ple are also af­forded pro­tec­tion and a right to pri­vacy and pro­tec­tion of their per­sonal data.

This is part of the Char­ter of Fun­da­men­tal Rights of the Euro­pean Union and is dealt with in Ar­ti­cles 7 and 8. On May 25, 2018, the Gen­eral Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tions (GDPR) will be en­forced.

These reg­u­la­tions are far-reach­ing, and are de­signed to protect all the uses in data pri­vacy and re­shape the way or­gan­i­sa­tions across the Euro­pean Union ap­proach data pri­vacy. Farm­ers who op­er­ate on a large scale, and have a num­ber of em­ploy­ees, should be aware of these reg­u­la­tions, and it is im­por­tant that you pre­pare your busi­ness for the reg­u­la­tions, which would in­clude in­ter­nal record keep­ing re­quire­ments. For a very large busi­ness, it may be nec­es­sary to ap­point a data pro­tec­tion of­fi­cer. Breaches of the reg­u­la­tions may re­sult in prose­cu­tion by the rel­e­vant data pro­tec­tion author­ity. In sum­mary, whilst there are cer­tainly ad­van­tages to us­ing so­cial me­dia, and it is rec­om­mended that farm­ers em­brace so­cial me­dia, it is im­por­tant to be aware that there are cer­tain re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and le­gal obli­ga­tions when us­ing so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

If you are con­cerned that your le­gal rights have been breached, or that you have po­ten­tially com­mit­ted a crim­i­nal act by us­ing so­cial me­dia, it is ad­vis­able that you con­sult with a solic­i­tor.

Like ev­ery­one else, farm­ers should make them­selves aware of the le­gal as­pects of the dig­i­tal world we live in, in ar­eas such as defama­tion and data pro­tec­tion.

Karen Walsh, from a farm­ing back­ground, is a solic­i­tor prac­tic­ing in Walsh & Part­ners, Solic­i­tors, 17, South Mall, Cork (021-4270200), and au­thor of ‘Farm­ing and the Law’. Walsh & Part­ners also spe­cialises in per­sonal in­jury claims, con­veyanc­ing,...

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