My LinkedIn Profile: Does My Employer Own It?

The following story of LinkedIn Profile ownership is a true one, and as with my other blog posts, I am hoping to get your feedback as to what the “right” answer to this question should be.

Imagine that you began a job as a recruiter.  Part of your job is, obviously, building out a network.  After being hired you sign up to LinkedIn using your personal name.  You start inviting your network as well as new contacts to connect with you on the networking platform.  In order to better facilitate your sourcing activities on LinkedIn, your company starts reimbursing you for a paid account.

I think the above is a very likely scenario for a lot of people, not only in the recruiting industry, but in any outward-facing role (such as sales and marketing) as part of a larger organization.  And if you don’t feel the problem brewing, then maybe you need to make sure that you don’t end up like my networking contact did.This person decides to leave the company.  The company demands ownership of his LinkedIn Profile.  That’s right, they are not asking for the database of his LinkedIn connections, which is fair game, but for his username and password.  The company wants ownership of this employee’s social networking account in its entirety.

It would be interesting to see if there have been any court cases regarding who rightfully owns the LinkedIn account in this instance, so that we can all confirm what the legal precedent is.  I am not a lawyer in any fashion, but something tells me 1) the company should have opened a LinkedIn account and provided the employee with a username and password to use (along with a legal agreement that ownership of the account passes on to the company when the employee leaves) and 2) because the company did not do this and merely reimbursed the employee, they do not have the legal right to ask for outright ownership of the account, although they obviously deserve access to the information in the database.

I always tell my networking contacts to make sure that they use their personal email address, not company one, as their primary LinkedIn contact information.  Should you have to suddenly depart your company, you want to make sure that your account is completely portable.  But this employee did just that, and is still facing a problem.

As you can see, we are navigating uncharted waters when we talk about social networking.  There are no rules established for this.  And professional networks like LinkedIn truly blur the lines between your “professional” network and your “personal” one.  Add the fact that there is a paid service available on LinkedIn, and you begin to wonder why we haven’t heard about this potential problem before.

So, in this scenario, who do you side with, the employer or the ex-employee?  And for what reason?

Regardless, if you are potentially in a similar situation, save yourself future headaches and create your own personal LinkedIn account, making sure that you separate your private network of connections from your employer’s.  You never know when you may be fighting this same battle when you leave your next job.

About the Author:

Neal Schaffer, Founder and Editor-In-Chief

The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer
PeopleLinx

Comments

  1. Kevin Clark says

    Here is another example of technology outpacing the legal system. I can see both sides of this story. My vote is that the employee has the right to the account and not the company. While it is true the account was paid for by the company, the relationships between the employee and his connections can not be transferred or sold. One could make the argument that if the employee proposed to his wife on a company sponsored trip then at termination, the company would also own that relationship. I know that example is extreme and ridiculous, but it does give one pause. I believe this one will be tied up in the courts for a while. In the meantime, the employee might want to set up a new LinkedIn account and start re-adding contacts.

  2. Kevin Clark says

    Here is another example of technology outpacing the legal system. I can see both sides of this story. My vote is that the employee has the right to the account and not the company. While it is true the account was paid for by the company, the relationships between the employee and his connections can not be transferred or sold. One could make the argument that if the employee proposed to his wife on a company sponsored trip then at termination, the company would also own that relationship. I know that example is extreme and ridiculous, but it does give one pause. I believe this one will be tied up in the courts for a while. In the meantime, the employee might want to set up a new LinkedIn account and start re-adding contacts.

  3. Leslie Morgan says

    I think there are two separate issues with the employer paying for the account being the less important issue. I will bet the trouble spot is going to be were you building your network while being paid by your employer? If so, it is highly likely they are going to own it even if they can’t make a case for owning your name.

    The bottom line is the likely conclusion is they get the contacts, you get to disassociate from them…but I’m anxious to hear what “experts” have to say!

  4. Leslie Morgan says

    I think there are two separate issues with the employer paying for the account being the less important issue. I will bet the trouble spot is going to be were you building your network while being paid by your employer? If so, it is highly likely they are going to own it even if they can’t make a case for owning your name.

    The bottom line is the likely conclusion is they get the contacts, you get to disassociate from them…but I’m anxious to hear what “experts” have to say!

  5. Neal Schaffer says

    Thank you for your excellent comment Kevin. I would agree with your perspective on this, and I like the extreme example that you show. Indeed, network-building is inherent in the profession of recruiting, so how can you demand ownership of this asset in the form of turning over a social networking account? I also agree that this person, just to be on the safe side, should set up a separate account and start re-adding contacts. I hope that others that aren’t in this position but maybe in the future start doing the same.

  6. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for your comment Leslie. Well, if you are a recruiter (I am not but I believe you are), I assume that building a network is part of your job, just as it would be in sales. I don’t mind that the employer owns the contact database, but owning the actual social networking account, which is in the name of an actual employee, I have an issue with…and it sets a dangerous precedent for a lot of people working in a lot of professions! Kevin Clark just gave an excellent comment on this and I thank you for your contribution as well!

  7. says

    The issue of who “owns” an employee’s relationships is not a new one. For years companies have tried to capture their employees’ relationship via an SFA or CRM software implementation. In fact, I have always contended that one of the major barriers to SFA/CRM success is the employee’s unwillingness to cede his relationships to his employer.

    The contractual relationship between LinkedIn and its users is “non-transferable” according to the LinkedIn Terms of Service. The mere act of reimbursing an individual for a monthly subscription fee does not change that relationship.

  8. says

    The issue of who “owns” an employee’s relationships is not a new one. For years companies have tried to capture their employees’ relationship via an SFA or CRM software implementation. In fact, I have always contended that one of the major barriers to SFA/CRM success is the employee’s unwillingness to cede his relationships to his employer.

    The contractual relationship between LinkedIn and its users is “non-transferable” according to the LinkedIn Terms of Service. The mere act of reimbursing an individual for a monthly subscription fee does not change that relationship.

  9. Neal Schaffer says

    Thank you for your valuable contribution here Lonny. Yes, social networking sites like LinkedIn are similar to CRMs in that they will contain customer databases for certain professions. And you are right that the success of the CRM implementation comes down to the employee’s willingness to cede his or her “network” to the company. Your insight into the LinkedIn Terms of Service, that the accounts are not transferable, does add some major ammunition to my contact’s fight against his former employee. I sincerely thank you for your input here and look forward to communicating with you again in the future.

  10. Anonymous says

    I have managed to separate my original LinkedIn account (which is now my employer’s) from a new personal account, but you are right, personal and professional many times cross-over. Both clients and vendors alike are now my personal friends.

    My husband has vendor and client relationships in the same industry, which by association become my contacts. Yet some of those contacts are contacts of my company’s. I also have past consulting clients that are present clients of my employers. How can I possibly keep those 2 accounts from overlapping? It can’t be avoided. Nor can those relationships be stopped if I were to ever leave the company. It really is a strange box we’ve opened, and I’ll be interested to see how it all unfolds.

  11. Anonymous says

    I have managed to separate my original LinkedIn account (which is now my employer’s) from a new personal account, but you are right, personal and professional many times cross-over. Both clients and vendors alike are now my personal friends.

    My husband has vendor and client relationships in the same industry, which by association become my contacts. Yet some of those contacts are contacts of my company’s. I also have past consulting clients that are present clients of my employers. How can I possibly keep those 2 accounts from overlapping? It can’t be avoided. Nor can those relationships be stopped if I were to ever leave the company. It really is a strange box we’ve opened, and I’ll be interested to see how it all unfolds.

  12. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for your comment (anonymous), and you bring up an excellent point that the personal and the professional are now forever intertwined with the appearance and popularity of LinkedIn. It definitely will be interesting to see how it all unfolds, and something tells me we are in store for a lot of other new issues that we can’t even imagine.

  13. says

    Great discussion, questions. I was at a webinar where LinkedIn corporate was presenting to a major US university (not mentioned since if LI is smart they are monitoring these comments)
    The sales executive was offering services for a price– perfectlly normal for a corporation–but, he also made reference that LI could “close down” any groups that used the university name or logo if the university was doing business with LI. Doing business meaning paying LI to find all alums on LI and send InMails (for $ of course).
    Soooo, if LI can close down groups, can a company that has a paying relationship with LI get LI to close down profiles?? LI controls the agreement we all sign so they can change it at will.

  14. says

    Great discussion, questions. I was at a webinar where LinkedIn corporate was presenting to a major US university (not mentioned since if LI is smart they are monitoring these comments)
    The sales executive was offering services for a price– perfectlly normal for a corporation–but, he also made reference that LI could “close down” any groups that used the university name or logo if the university was doing business with LI. Doing business meaning paying LI to find all alums on LI and send InMails (for $ of course).
    Soooo, if LI can close down groups, can a company that has a paying relationship with LI get LI to close down profiles?? LI controls the agreement we all sign so they can change it at will.

  15. Neal Schaffer says

    Thank you so much for your input Valerie. I have never heard LinkedIn firsthand do a sales pitch, but that technique is a scary stereotypical enterprise software power sell that I do not want to associate with LinkedIn. Let me repeat that there is no bigger fan in LinkedIn than myself, but if they start siding on the side of paying enterprises, we will start to see a lot more controversial things coming down the pipeline. I agree that since we are in their sandbox we need to play by their rules. The problem is that out of the blue they shut down LinkedIn Groups or transfer ownership of groups without previous notice nor explanation (there is documented proof of these things out there, not rumors). This is what scares me. The sad part is, if you are not associated with an enterprise, even if you are a paying customer you will lose out to the paying enterprise. Let’s hope that LinkedIn doesn’t turn too “corporate”, because if it does, it will leave an open door for their competition to come in and attract the truly professional demographic away from LinkedIn. In such a scenario we all lose out.

  16. says

    I am a researcher/sourcer supporting recruitng. Interesting slant I have is that I was hired by my last company in 2007 in part because of the Linkedin network I had built while at a previous company. What they didn’t tell me was that it was expected that I would share my account (which I was paying for!) after I started work. I politely declined but used LinkedIn to support recruiter’s reqs. I was asked repeatedly if I would download my primary contacts into their ATS (database) and I know recruiters were also asked this. I wonder how many companies have used this tactic – don’t pay for RecruiterPro but hire the LinkedIn contacts.

  17. says

    I am a researcher/sourcer supporting recruitng. Interesting slant I have is that I was hired by my last company in 2007 in part because of the Linkedin network I had built while at a previous company. What they didn’t tell me was that it was expected that I would share my account (which I was paying for!) after I started work. I politely declined but used LinkedIn to support recruiter’s reqs. I was asked repeatedly if I would download my primary contacts into their ATS (database) and I know recruiters were also asked this. I wonder how many companies have used this tactic – don’t pay for RecruiterPro but hire the LinkedIn contacts.

  18. Neal Schaffer says

    Very insightful comment Dorothy. I am not from the recruiting field, but it would make sense that your network is part of the value that you bring to the table. That being said, because LinkedIn combines your personal and professional network, I would feel very uncomfortable uploading that to any company database. To me it seems like a violation of privacy. I think, going forward, we all need to be a little more cognizant of what is at stake when we join a new company and get the rules straight before the misunderstandings begin.

  19. says

    Used to be the question that was asked was “who owns the rolodex?, then who owns the Act database?

    The tools change but the question is never outdated. I recommend that all employees add a clause in their employment contract or Job Offer that lays out who owns it, my expectation is always that the employee should own it.

  20. says

    Used to be the question that was asked was “who owns the rolodex?, then who owns the Act database?

    The tools change but the question is never outdated. I recommend that all employees add a clause in their employment contract or Job Offer that lays out who owns it, my expectation is always that the employee should own it.

  21. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for the comment, Miles, and your advice is right on target. Negotiate this as part of your Job Offer and you won’t have to deal with the problem again.

  22. says

    Companies and employees should both be lobbying for a company’s “social media” policies being published so that they can be evaluated along with any other aspect of a corporate culture before joining. That said, and a future hope only in most cases, both sides have to work out how to be mutually supportive. There can be guidelines about how to use your profile while in a companies employ, such as a “headline” and “summary” that reflects the company prominently along with populating the three websites with company destinations. Note, I said guidelines. Support your company’s success while working there seems an intelligent thing to do. In exchange for “renting” real estate in your profile while you are employed I think the company should acknowledge that it is a personal profile and not company property.

    Recruiters should demand such a company social media policy so that they know the rules up front. Perhaps a new recruiter exports a “baseline” database of contacts before joining to establish a demarc of what they brought to the party and are willing to use in their role as recruiter in support of their employer. Then, all new contacts are “shared” and both get to “keep” them upon separation in the future. Simple enough to do with export and import functionality.

    It shouldn’t be tough to establish common ground and mutually supportive policies.

  23. says

    Companies and employees should both be lobbying for a company’s “social media” policies being published so that they can be evaluated along with any other aspect of a corporate culture before joining. That said, and a future hope only in most cases, both sides have to work out how to be mutually supportive. There can be guidelines about how to use your profile while in a companies employ, such as a “headline” and “summary” that reflects the company prominently along with populating the three websites with company destinations. Note, I said guidelines. Support your company’s success while working there seems an intelligent thing to do. In exchange for “renting” real estate in your profile while you are employed I think the company should acknowledge that it is a personal profile and not company property.

    Recruiters should demand such a company social media policy so that they know the rules up front. Perhaps a new recruiter exports a “baseline” database of contacts before joining to establish a demarc of what they brought to the party and are willing to use in their role as recruiter in support of their employer. Then, all new contacts are “shared” and both get to “keep” them upon separation in the future. Simple enough to do with export and import functionality.

    It shouldn’t be tough to establish common ground and mutually supportive policies.

  24. Neal Schaffer says

    Thank you Ed for the excellent comment. You brought up a whole new category of thought, that each HR should execute on a Social Media Policy that employees sign off on before joining. I couldn’t agree with you more. We are truly living in the Social Media Age. I’d love to get the opinion of someone in HR about what the challenges are in enacting such a policy inside a company and what their Social Media Policy plans are.

  25. says

    If employee built his network, s/he keeps it.

    Say I work for company XYZ and go on vacation, meet 10 interesting professionals, and they later add me to their Linkedin profile. They added ME, not my company.

    WHO is to say that when (and if) I later part XYZ company, XYZ owns all my contacts. If I have 500+ contacts, WHO is to tell me which ones are which?

    It’s more complex then one think.

    Policy of Linkedin states that it’s an individual’s account, and login credentials, NOT to be shared.

    – Steven Burda

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/burda
    http://whywebpr.com/burda

  26. says

    If employee built his network, s/he keeps it.

    Say I work for company XYZ and go on vacation, meet 10 interesting professionals, and they later add me to their Linkedin profile. They added ME, not my company.

    WHO is to say that when (and if) I later part XYZ company, XYZ owns all my contacts. If I have 500+ contacts, WHO is to tell me which ones are which?

    It’s more complex then one think.

    Policy of Linkedin states that it’s an individual’s account, and login credentials, NOT to be shared.

    – Steven Burda

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/burda
    http://whywebpr.com/burda

  27. says

    This is a very interesting scenario. In the past, when a recruiter or source built an network while at an organization, corporate or search firm, the firm would own the network developed on their dime.

    Yet, Linked In is personal. I am sure that a lawyer could take this case to trial and win on behalf of the employer.

    Ed is right, this is an entire new area of policy and law. It screams that both parties make this clear at the onset of the work relationship by agreement, in the interim.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Ed.

  28. says

    This is a very interesting scenario. In the past, when a recruiter or source built an network while at an organization, corporate or search firm, the firm would own the network developed on their dime.

    Yet, Linked In is personal. I am sure that a lawyer could take this case to trial and win on behalf of the employer.

    Ed is right, this is an entire new area of policy and law. It screams that both parties make this clear at the onset of the work relationship by agreement, in the interim.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Ed.

  29. Neal Schaffer says

    Hi Libby and thank you for your contribution. I agree with you and Ed that it is best to confirm this at the beginning, not the end, of your relationship with an employer. Hopefully everyone reading this blog post will be more aware of this for the future.

  30. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for the comment Steven…and you are right, the LinkedIn User Agreement states that you can only have one profile per person. So this raises an entirely new issue all together…

  31. Neal Schaffer says

    Agree with you 100% Steven! It is more complex than we think, but the LinkedIn User Agreement is actually clear on this and is on the side of the employee keeping his account regardless of where he works.

  32. says

    Whatever we can say about LinkedIn is equally true on Facebook. You should protect your company and reputation by putting up placeholder profiles there, too. Most of our clients don’t even have profiles and fan pages on Facebook, so we put them up as insurance. Same is true on Twitter.

  33. says

    Whatever we can say about LinkedIn is equally true on Facebook. You should protect your company and reputation by putting up placeholder profiles there, too. Most of our clients don’t even have profiles and fan pages on Facebook, so we put them up as insurance. Same is true on Twitter.

  34. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for the comment, Dennis, and, yes, LinkedIn is only one example of a social networking site. You are smart in setting up pages in advance so that “squatters” don’t take them over. It really is the Wild West, so it’s best to do what you can in advance to protect yourself or company as much as possible.

  35. JoeN says

    Does my employer have a say in what I do with my account? I think they can limit what I say, to protect confidential information, but can they restrict me from linking to a friend who happens to work for a competitor?

  36. JoeN says

    Does my employer have a say in what I do with my account? I think they can limit what I say, to protect confidential information, but can they restrict me from linking to a friend who happens to work for a competitor?

  37. Neal Schaffer says

    I couldn’t agree more with you, Joe! If this is some enterprise CRM it is one thing, but this is a personal LinkedIn account!

  38. says

    This is a very interesting debate. I’m curious to see what legally is the case.

    What folks fail to ask is this: “Who owns the RELATIONSHIP?” What I mean by this is if you weren’t employed at company X, would your contacts still be your contacts? Is the relationship your contacts have with you, or with the company that employs you?

    More and more often, we are seeing companies who feel they are the relationship, then they let a key employee go, and all that business goes with them. If you are a good solutions providers, your contacts database is extremely portable. If you’re not, the relationship is with the company you work for, and then you might as well give up all the contacts.

    My advice: Frequently export your contacts to your home PC, export your full profile to your home PC, and back things up with a CRM solution you own. That will give you the contacts and details you need to go somewhere else.

    And spend most of your time building your relationships instead of building your contacts database. Real people will follow real people anytime over a faceless company.

  39. says

    This is a very interesting debate. I’m curious to see what legally is the case.

    What folks fail to ask is this: “Who owns the RELATIONSHIP?” What I mean by this is if you weren’t employed at company X, would your contacts still be your contacts? Is the relationship your contacts have with you, or with the company that employs you?

    More and more often, we are seeing companies who feel they are the relationship, then they let a key employee go, and all that business goes with them. If you are a good solutions providers, your contacts database is extremely portable. If you’re not, the relationship is with the company you work for, and then you might as well give up all the contacts.

    My advice: Frequently export your contacts to your home PC, export your full profile to your home PC, and back things up with a CRM solution you own. That will give you the contacts and details you need to go somewhere else.

    And spend most of your time building your relationships instead of building your contacts database. Real people will follow real people anytime over a faceless company.

  40. Neal Schaffer says

    Phil,

    Thank you for your excellent comment. I agree with the need to constantly synch your contact info, but I loved your last sentence on spending the time with the relationships rather than building the contacts database. Exactly! Those relationships are agnostic to any social media platform!

    - Neal

  41. says

    Phil, excellent points. The face of most companies is the sales person, not the company itself. If you, as the sales person, spend your time building that relationship, the client will move with you when you leave the company because they enjoy working with YOU, not the company.

    Also, I would imagine it’s really hard to argue that one wouldn’t have made the contacts that they have made while working for a company. Especially in a smaller community where “everyone knows everyone” and where most of your competitors are working the same accounts as you (which is what makes them competition, right?). Therefore, if you were working for the competition, you may have still made all the contacts that you did with your current company, maybe even more :-)

    I suppose with that last thought in mind, it would be just as fair and reasonable to claim that your company kept you from making more contacts than you would have made otherwise ;-)

  42. says

    Phil, excellent points. The face of most companies is the sales person, not the company itself. If you, as the sales person, spend your time building that relationship, the client will move with you when you leave the company because they enjoy working with YOU, not the company.

    Also, I would imagine it’s really hard to argue that one wouldn’t have made the contacts that they have made while working for a company. Especially in a smaller community where “everyone knows everyone” and where most of your competitors are working the same accounts as you (which is what makes them competition, right?). Therefore, if you were working for the competition, you may have still made all the contacts that you did with your current company, maybe even more :-)

    I suppose with that last thought in mind, it would be just as fair and reasonable to claim that your company kept you from making more contacts than you would have made otherwise ;-)

  43. anon says

    I'd tell that company that I won't accept reimbursement any longer for the profile becuase and therefore they are no longer paying for it and don't get the benefit of access to it becuase that arrangement with them was conditioned on my continued employment.

    Also they are no longer paying for me so don't get access to my contacts.

    I would consider licensing the continued use of my contacts to them on a monthly basis. Maybe a few thousand a month depending on their value.

    Look they either want to continue to pay for you and your ability as an employee or they don't. If they don't want to keep me on they they don't get continued use of my work product or my brain even if I have uploaded part of my brain and contacts to the internet.

    However I also have to say this just points out the huge fallacy of uploading your contacts to any online service.
    Your Rolodex is a huge part of your value in many industries.

    If you find that companies will only offer jobs if they get to retain you at their leisure but demand permanent access to your contacts even if you only work with them one day then they are really just trying to buy your book for nothing.

    I don't event think employees should work through a salesforce system owned by the company.

  44. anon says

    IF an employer could claim to own your contacts I am not sure why an employee whose paid relationship has ended with his former employer couldn't claim ownership of any future business done by the company with his contacts.

    People forget that just becuase money flows to the employee that does not mean the employee is not providing a service of value to the employer based on his wages.

    One could equally argue that since the company has continued to use a substantial essence of what the employee had been paid for that they are in fact still employing the person and must pay them or cease using the employees contacts.

    Contacts for future business are very different than business that was actually completed during the employees tenure.

    Unless the companies primary business is actually the gathering of names for resale rather than possible future business with those names then the company has no more right to keep working your contacts without paying you than they do demanding you come into the office without paying you.

    Furthermore in many cases it doesn't matter what your employee agreement says. An agreement can't violate the spirit of the law which recognizes the employee employer relationship only exists while the employee is being paid. In fact in California recently the courts just flat out ruled employee non compete contracts are illegal and not in the interest of the state to maintain a competitive marketplace.

    Also in many states like California you have a right to commissions generated from your work after you leave the company. I would make the argument if I found the company had used my contacts to generate further sales that I was due commission on those sales.

    two can paly at that game.

    There seems to be an attempt at a powerplay by employers to enforce a form of involuntary timed servitude through employment contract which often on negotiated under duress.

    They want to pay people for short times and harvest their work after they stop paying them by harvesting their employee network.

    I don't believe any state of the United States recognizes timed unpaid involuntary servitude and hasn't since the 1800's.
    Involuntary servitude agreements were in writing back in the 1700 and 1800's too but they are still illegal now.

    Just becuase it is in writing doesn't mean it's legal.

    Employers won't like it but they need to come to the understanding that if they like what an employee brings to the table and they want to keep using it they must continue to employ the employee. If they don't want the employee to take a job at a competitor then they need to pay him more than the competitor. They can't just negotiate continued servitude or non servitude at a competitor after they are no longer paying for the employee's workflow or exclusivity.

    Period.

  45. james says

    Here is another extension of the same issue/question. I have a linked in account – -I use my personal name/address and I have a free account — so there is not any money/consideration changing hands — but I do use the linked in account for business purposes – handling client relationships etc. IS there any difference? I am not asking for reimbursements from the company I work for — so do they have ownership of any/part/all of the data in the linked in account –perhaps I was building and using linked in during the day on my paid office hours (more costly than any monthly fee could ever be). How would this change the rights of the employer to demand access to the account/or data? How about if I had a paid account which I paid for myself and never expensed it to the company or asked for re-imbursement? How about if I had a linked in account and I only used the account during non-business-hours so I never used employee time to maintain or use the account during office hours? How much time is spent by employees working on social networking sites for the benefit of their employer, who owns it at the end of the day, what circumstances determine which part of that ownership structure? This is a really interesting question and needs to have some kind of “friend of the court or amicus briefing” to get some judgments and precedents in order to make an orderly system for everyone concerned. Perhaps this is why I see a bunch of duplicate and triplicate or 'quadplicate' entries for the same person as they move along in their career opening up multiple profiles on Linked-in for each new job they take on — they day they leave – the old profile just sits dormant and stagnates forever? Never thought about it until this question came up. Thoughts – ideas?

  46. says

    Thank you for your comment James. Yes, the issue opens up a whole can of worms. I just came back from a Government 2.5 conference where one of the topics was “How do you define “job”?” As we become a free agent nation and companies make use of our social networks, what is the dividing line as to who owns what in social media? I do believe that we need some precedents, as you suggest. I also believe that companies are right now working on creating social media policies that will help define some of the issues that you bring up above. Either way, it is clear that the dividing line between personal and work on social networks, especially for people in certain industries and professions, is becoming harder to decipher. As for having multiple profiles on the same social network for each company that we work for, this is obviously a scenario that both the users and owners of the social network want to avoid…that is why I hope that the Facebooks, LinkedIns and Twitters join in the conversation and help us define rules that will be fair to all involved.

  47. says

    Thank you for your comment James. Yes, the issue opens up a whole can of worms. I just came back from a Government 2.5 conference where one of the topics was “How do you define “job”?” As we become a free agent nation and companies make use of our social networks, what is the dividing line as to who owns what in social media? I do believe that we need some precedents, as you suggest. I also believe that companies are right now working on creating social media policies that will help define some of the issues that you bring up above. Either way, it is clear that the dividing line between personal and work on social networks, especially for people in certain industries and professions, is becoming harder to decipher. As for having multiple profiles on the same social network for each company that we work for, this is obviously a scenario that both the users and owners of the social network want to avoid…that is why I hope that the Facebooks, LinkedIns and Twitters join in the conversation and help us define rules that will be fair to all involved.

  48. Richard says

    I totally side with the employee. The way I look at databases is it’s useless unless you really know the people.  Having Steven Spielberg’s rolodex is useless – you think Tom Hanks will pick up the call?  The company is just taking away some of that person’s power – so hopefully he exported the contacts beforehand.

    Reconnect with a new account is not such a bad thing – clean out deadwood and reconnect with a new story. Life goes on.  Having all this in writing is a grand idea though.

  49. Neal Schaffer says

    Thank you for your excellent comment Kevin. I would agree with your perspective on this, and I like the extreme example that you show. Indeed, network-building is inherent in the profession of recruiting, so how can you demand ownership of this asset in the form of turning over a social networking account? I also agree that this person, just to be on the safe side, should set up a separate account and start re-adding contacts. I hope that others that aren’t in this position but maybe in the future start doing the same.

  50. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for your comment Leslie. Well, if you are a recruiter (I am not but I believe you are), I assume that building a network is part of your job, just as it would be in sales. I don’t mind that the employer owns the contact database, but owning the actual social networking account, which is in the name of an actual employee, I have an issue with…and it sets a dangerous precedent for a lot of people working in a lot of professions! Kevin Clark just gave an excellent comment on this and I thank you for your contribution as well!

  51. Neal Schaffer says

    Thank you for your valuable contribution here Lonny. Yes, social networking sites like LinkedIn are similar to CRMs in that they will contain customer databases for certain professions. And you are right that the success of the CRM implementation comes down to the employee’s willingness to cede his or her “network” to the company. Your insight into the LinkedIn Terms of Service, that the accounts are not transferable, does add some major ammunition to my contact’s fight against his former employee. I sincerely thank you for your input here and look forward to communicating with you again in the future.

  52. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for your comment (anonymous), and you bring up an excellent point that the personal and the professional are now forever intertwined with the appearance and popularity of LinkedIn. It definitely will be interesting to see how it all unfolds, and something tells me we are in store for a lot of other new issues that we can’t even imagine.

  53. Neal Schaffer says

    Thank you so much for your input Valerie. I have never heard LinkedIn firsthand do a sales pitch, but that technique is a scary stereotypical enterprise software power sell that I do not want to associate with LinkedIn. Let me repeat that there is no bigger fan in LinkedIn than myself, but if they start siding on the side of paying enterprises, we will start to see a lot more controversial things coming down the pipeline. I agree that since we are in their sandbox we need to play by their rules. The problem is that out of the blue they shut down LinkedIn Groups or transfer ownership of groups without previous notice nor explanation (there is documented proof of these things out there, not rumors). This is what scares me. The sad part is, if you are not associated with an enterprise, even if you are a paying customer you will lose out to the paying enterprise. Let’s hope that LinkedIn doesn’t turn too “corporate”, because if it does, it will leave an open door for their competition to come in and attract the truly professional demographic away from LinkedIn. In such a scenario we all lose out.

  54. Neal Schaffer says

    Very insightful comment Dorothy. I am not from the recruiting field, but it would make sense that your network is part of the value that you bring to the table. That being said, because LinkedIn combines your personal and professional network, I would feel very uncomfortable uploading that to any company database. To me it seems like a violation of privacy. I think, going forward, we all need to be a little more cognizant of what is at stake when we join a new company and get the rules straight before the misunderstandings begin.

  55. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for the comment, Miles, and your advice is right on target. Negotiate this as part of your Job Offer and you won’t have to deal with the problem again.

  56. Neal Schaffer says

    Thank you Ed for the excellent comment. You brought up a whole new category of thought, that each HR should execute on a Social Media Policy that employees sign off on before joining. I couldn’t agree with you more. We are truly living in the Social Media Age. I’d love to get the opinion of someone in HR about what the challenges are in enacting such a policy inside a company and what their Social Media Policy plans are.

  57. Neal Schaffer says

    Hi Libby and thank you for your contribution. I agree with you and Ed that it is best to confirm this at the beginning, not the end, of your relationship with an employer. Hopefully everyone reading this blog post will be more aware of this for the future.

  58. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for the comment Steven…and you are right, the LinkedIn User Agreement states that you can only have one profile per person. So this raises an entirely new issue all together…

  59. Neal Schaffer says

    Agree with you 100% Steven! It is more complex than we think, but the LinkedIn User Agreement is actually clear on this and is on the side of the employee keeping his account regardless of where he works.

  60. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for the comment, Dennis, and, yes, LinkedIn is only one example of a social networking site. You are smart in setting up pages in advance so that “squatters” don’t take them over. It really is the Wild West, so it’s best to do what you can in advance to protect yourself or company as much as possible.

  61. Neal Schaffer says

    I couldn’t agree more with you, Joe! If this is some enterprise CRM it is one thing, but this is a personal LinkedIn account!

  62. Neal Schaffer says

    Phil,

    Thank you for your excellent comment. I agree with the need to constantly synch your contact info, but I loved your last sentence on spending the time with the relationships rather than building the contacts database. Exactly! Those relationships are agnostic to any social media platform!

    - Neal

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