Privacy, Transparency Being Addressed By New Facebook Sourcing Tool

Jul 23, 2010
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

I had an informative, and reassuring conversation this morning with the founder and head of BranchOut, a Facebook app that I wrote about yesterday, which has a potentially valuable future as a sourcing tool.

Rick Marini, an entrepreneur with an impressive pedigree, was concerned enough about the transparency issues I raised in the post, that he pinged me to clarify a few things.

What he said was encouraging. “We are very aware of the privacy issues,” he said at the outset of our conversation this morning. “We would never compromise privacy.”

In the team’s haste to push out the app, a few things were overlooked, he said. One of them, a rather important oversight, was any sort of explanation about the access to personal Facebook information that BranchOut needs to do its work.

“We didn’t do a good job explaining,” Marini agreed. It’s being fixed, he said. Explanations and clarifications are being added to both the www site and the BranchOut Facebook presence. The first piece, an explanation page that comes up when you refuse to grant the requested permissions, is now in place.

The additions and fixes are all welcome, even if it does suggest that privacy and transparency weren’t priorities until they were raised by others. Nevertheless, recruiters should be heartened by the responsiveness of Marini and his team to the feedback if, for no other reason, than self-interest: BranchOut could become a remarkably useful tool to source candidates and to further employee referral programs.

You can read more detail about what BranchOut does in yesterday’s post. Briefly what it does is tell you where the friends in your network work or have worked and it lets you know if any of your friends have friends in specific companies.

You can post jobs to your own friends network for free. Soon, Marini told me, employers will be able to post jobs and have them targeted to Facebook users that have been identified by BranchOut on the basis of their job or employer.

You can do all this on LinkedIn, and many recruiters do. LinkedIn makes it easy to source candidates.

Facebook is more of an attractant approach. People generally come to you. BranchOut adds the missing dimension. Its sheer numbers — 500 million users as of just this week — make it a very attractive pond in which to go fishing.

What we don’t know is how many Facebook users have bothered to post detailed profiles about themselves. Or, if they have, to make them available. On LinkedIn, the majority — by quite a bit — have complete and public profiles. So far, from what we’re seeing, Facebook is just the opposite.

Thus anything Marini and the BranchOut team can do to instill confidence that data won’t be misused, can only help encourage Facebook fans to complete those profiles. Which will improve sourcing for recruiters.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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