Protecting Your Company’s Confidential Information: Takeaways from Meta’s Lawsuit Against Its Former Employee

April 17, 2024

Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and other products, recently filed a lawsuit in a California state court against a former vice president for allegedly taking confidential information from Meta to his new employer, an artificial intelligence company. This information purportedly included proprietary, highly sensitive, confidential, and non-public Meta information concerning Meta’s data centers, suppliers, vendors, and artificial-intelligence programs. Meta alleged in its lawsuit that the former employee signed multiple agreements obligating him to protect Meta’s confidential information, return all information after his employment with Meta, and otherwise refrain from outside activities while at Meta. Meta also claims its former employee breached his fiduciary duties owed to the company.

Trade secrets, customer lists, and other confidential data are highly valuable assets that companies should take affirmative steps to protect. The lawsuit filed by Meta provides several key takeaways for employers regarding the protection of confidential information and the enforcement of employment agreements.

Vigilance in Protecting Confidential Data:

The case underscores the importance for employers to remain vigilant in safeguarding confidential information. Employers should implement robust policies and procedures to prevent unauthorized access and misuse of sensitive data, especially by departing employees who may have access to proprietary information.

Enforcement of Employment Agreements:

Employers should ensure that employment agreements contain provisions that protect confidential information and restrict its use both during and after employment. These agreements should clearly define the obligations of employees regarding the handling of sensitive data and include mechanisms for enforcement in the event of breaches.

Monitoring Employee Activity:

Employers may consider implementing monitoring systems to track employee activity, particularly in roles with access to sensitive information. Regular audits and reviews of access logs can help identify any unauthorized access or suspicious behavior, allowing employers to take prompt action to mitigate risks.

Response to Breaches:

In the event of suspected breaches of confidentiality, employers should take swift and decisive action to investigate the matter and protect their interests. This may include initiating legal proceedings, seeking injunctive relief, and pursuing remedies such as restitution and damages to mitigate the impact of the breach.

Legal Recourse:

Employers should be aware of their legal options for recourse in cases of alleged misconduct by former employees. By pursuing legal action against individuals who breach their contractual obligations or engage in disloyal conduct, employers can send a strong message about the seriousness of protecting confidential information.

Documentation and Compliance:

Employers should maintain comprehensive records of employee agreements, communications, and any incidents related to the protection of confidential information. Documentation of compliance with legal and contractual obligations can strengthen the employer’s position in legal proceedings and help demonstrate due diligence in protecting sensitive data.

Training and Education:

Providing employees with training on confidentiality policies, data security practices, and the importance of protecting proprietary information can help promote awareness and compliance. Regular education sessions can reinforce the company’s commitment to safeguarding confidential data and empower employees to fulfill their responsibilities effectively.

By implementing proactive measures, lawfully monitoring employee activity, and responding effectively to breaches, employers can mitigate risks and safeguard their valuable assets against unauthorized disclosure and misuse.

If you suspect an employee has taken your company’s confidential information post-employment, or you would like guidance on how to protect your company’s confidential data, KJK is here to help you work through it. Please contact Jeff Vaisa (JRV@kjk.com; 216.736.7287) or Emily Vaisa (EOV@kjk.com; 216.736.7257).