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Who Owns 'You'

by Gavin Heaton  |  
August 3, 2007

We all love social media ... we love the way that it connects us, the way we can interact with people both near and far, and to an extent, we even love the gadgety effects of the technology that drives it all.

We have profiles all over the place, pictures, links, likes, dislikes, favorites and widgets. There are movies, music and clubs. There are groups, messages, inboxes and discussion boards. In fact, there are so many pieces to the puzzle that re-membering -- actually putting all of your virtual limbs together -- is a challenge.
But what happens, one day, when it all stops?
Never happen to you? Think again.
Because social networks rely on the power and reliability of the network members, there can be consequences for even a perceived breach of the "terms and conditions." A friend of mine experienced this with Google AdWords some time ago ... analytics seemed to indicate that he was inflating his clickthroughs by some kind of robot/program and he was therefore removed from the program. A couple of appeals went nowhere, and to this day he is on the blacklist. And while he was completely innocent of the charges, there was no further avenue to appeal.
Fair enough ... this is Google's network and they can do what they want ;)
But what happens to the personal detail that is held in these networks when they turn you off ... or, perhaps more importantly, when they close down (as they do)?
This question was raised by Harry Joiner this morning ... as he had been evicted from Facebook.
And while Harry may have a beef ... what about you or I? What about sites like Flickr? What happens to your personal content that resides on their network? What about the time that you have put into building your social network through links, messages and groups? Where does that investment go (and what happens to the images/digital assets you created)?
If our digital personalities are the sum total of the digital traces that we leave across the web, then the question of trust and ownership arise here. It is not just about the files and connections. It's about something more important.
So ... who owns YOU?

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Gavin in VP & Principal Analyst with Constellation Research Group. He possesses extensive international experience in driving measurable outcomes via digital customer experience platforms, digital strategy and executing innovative content driven campaigns. With a background in enterprise technology innovation, digital strategy and customer engagement, Gavin connects the dots between disruptive technologies, enterprise governance and business leaders.

Most recently, Gavin led the customer experience, communication and social media programs for SAP's Premier Customer Network. And over the last 15 years, he has been at the forefront of innovative digital strategies for some of the world's leading companies - from IBM to Fujitsu - and on the agency side, leading the global digital strategy for McDonald's.

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  • by John Whiteside Fri Aug 3, 2007 via blog

    What's interesting about this is that headhunters are, to some degree, the bane of social networks. not that they are bad people - but they make their money connecting people. I have a policy about of not linking to headhunters on LinkedIn because you find yourself with links to lots of people that are hard to use, because the headhunter wants to collect a fee for making a connection. That's fine; that's a headhunter's business, after all. But it's not the point of a social network.

  • by Harry Joiner Fri Aug 3, 2007 via blog

    John, Point well taken, but the reality is that I pay LinkedIn north of $5K per year for the ability to send an InMail to ANYONE in their database without having to go through a string of intermediaries (my feedback rating after several hundred InMails is 4.5 stars). Therefore, I do not become a burden on the intermediaries between me and the desired candidate. It's also much more discreet to "go direct" because the target candidate may not want his referring friends to know he's being contacted by a headhunter. It's safe to say that I have forwarded many more InMails for other people than the other way around. (I give way more than I get.) And here's an odd statistic: In 2006, candidates had a better chance of getting hired by A&E Television Interactive through me than if they went direct through the HR department. There are other (true) instances where clients have given me all of their direct candidates in a search so that I could hold all of the candidates to the same high standards of interviews. Etc. So why do my clients they do this? Simple: Many of the corporate recruiters who have become my friends routinely manage 20-30 open "job recs" at once. That's about 3 times the normal search load of a third-party recruiter. And corporate recruiters have no specialty either: A corporate recruiter could be managing a search for a logistics supervisor, a retail store manager, a director of online marketing, a paralegal, and two dozen other unrelated positions all at the same time. And that's why third-party recruiters exist. We get paid to know who's got game in our field of specialty (mine's ecommerce) .... and we get paid to bring the best and brightest of that subset to the interview table. In a sense, we're like sports agents. Back to Facebook: My understanding from Robert Scoble was that "Facebook = Rolodex." I also know that one of the biggest ways to monetize a social network is by enabling it serve as a massive passive candidate pool. It's a reality of people like Jobster and Facebook doing business in a way that facilitates passive, "value-confluent" candidate community-building around companies who pay for that privilege. See Although I didn't understand the platform, I felt I needed to get ahead of the curve in my industry by being there. Here's why: Social networks aren't just fun and games to the major venture capitalists. There is a MAJOR load of pain being carried by the world's HR departments, and the extent to which social networking can cure that pain, somebody is going to make MAJOR bucks. However, your data WILL be MINED and SOLD to a bunch of people. And Facebook, I have learned, can make you disappear completely at the slightest whiff of atypical behavior. Then they will send you a form email saying "This decision is final." %3Epoof< So be careful. Note to Facebook: Wall St. is watching how you manage recruiters and recruiting researches. We are happy to keep our business on LinkedIn, who seems perfectly happy to cash my fat checks each year. A social network is a market, and I say this as a former beef trader: If Facebook is going to make a market, then they need to make the market friendly to intermediaries. If we didn't serve a valuable purpose to our clients, I wouldn't bill what I bill. PS - If you haven't read the tale of how I got summarily banned from Facebook, see A warning or some other instruction from the system would have been nice. I always play by the rules when the rules are POSTED.

  • by David Reich Fri Aug 3, 2007 via blog

    Just curious -- who is AJ and why was he so nasty to Harry in his comment on Harry's blog. We can disagree with each other, but I see no need for name-calling and nastiness online.

  • by Elaine Fogel Fri Aug 3, 2007 via blog

    This raises a valid issue in these unchartered waters. What are the rights of the individual versus the "network?" In addition to its privacy policy, it behooves every social network site to post its rules and regulations in an easy-to-find location, and to state what the consequences are if breached. It should post a way to contact the company by mail or telephone and what the appeal process is for errors such as Harry's. This is a risk management issue for both parties. It also gives us reason to ensure that any information we upload to a social networking site we back up on a regular basis.

  • by Tammy Allen Fri Aug 3, 2007 via blog

    Do people sign up on facebook to be recruited or to be social? I use myspace which apparently has the most blue collar losers on the planet signed up according to Berkley. Most have not completed college nor did their parents. I graduated and completed some grad school and both my parents graduated from college and are professionals in their fields. I prefer myspace. Perhaps I like slumming?

  • by Stephen Denny Fri Aug 3, 2007 via blog

    I've linked to a number of recruiters on LinkedIn (including Harry!) and have often used them as intermediaries in contacting people. None have ever asked me for money. If a recruiter is active on LinkedIn, they can find good candidates informally; the flip side is that their network is open to every other contact they have, as well. For free.

  • by Ann Handley Fri Aug 3, 2007 via blog

    More coverage of Harry's ordeal here: Too Popular for Facebook?

  • by Harry Joiner Sat Aug 4, 2007 via blog

    You know, funny thing about this episode is that I'm not pissed at FB -- although I was amazed at how swiftly and decisively they kicked me off the system. It was like, "No soup for you!!!" My money is fairly green, and I'm only too happy to give it to platforms that accommodate my kind. Indeed, there are recruiter groups on Facebook, and Jobster has a recruiting app specifically for Facebook. I didn't mean to break the rules. Indeed, if FB had been the least bit explicit as to what their rules are, I would have obeyed -- and paid. I'm sure we can patch things up. But it's a good thing that I have low friends in high places in the blogosphere. I'd hate to be a faceless, workaday person and have this kind of a run-in with Facebook. So far, they seem fairly hard to deal with. To whit: Not a single FB executive has weighed in on this issue despite the traction this seems to be getting in the blogosphere. Go figure. Harry

  • by Self Help Zone Sun Aug 5, 2007 via blog

    Social networking became very not only expand our network but also boost our site in www world.

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