I’m a big fan of Halloween.
Dressing up, carving pumpkins, and eating too much chocolate are all some of my favorite things. It’s also a time when I embrace fear and face demons. Similarly for corporations, Halloween is a good opportunity to reflect on those competitive demons and face the advantages other companies have over yours; it can be the stuff of nightmares and bumps in the night.
By all accounts, LinkedIn should sleep pretty soundly on a night filled with ghosts and goblins. It has an 800-pound sugar daddy up in Redmond, over 500 million members, and a ticket to China that no other U.S.-based social network enjoys. And even though the likes of Google and Facebook are nipping at its workforce heels, LinkedIn enjoys the pole position.
While Google doing this, this, and this that might represent the devil that most keeps LinkedIn executives awake at night, Facebook did something recently that may be the real metaphorical Lucifer dancing around Jeff Weiner’s head when it hits the pillow on Halloween night.
I recently argued that Facebook wasn’t really interested in competing with LinkedIn, and that Craigslist was the real target in Zuckerberg’s crosshairs. On Oct. 11, I wrote, “[LinkedIn and Facebook are] both playing the employment game, but appear to be on opposing fields. LinkedIn’s deep understanding of work and knowing what employers want is light years ahead of Facebook. While Facebook seems concerned about more content, more page views, and more ad dollars, LinkedIn seems to be figuring out how to take job postings out of the equation altogether.”
In pure speed-of-the-Internet fashion, just five days later, news hit that Facebook was testing the ability for uses to post resumes. I wrote, “According to news sources, the social media giant is currently testing a resume “upload” feature that allows users to share work experience with their network. The new option expands on the site’s “Work and education” section currently found in your Settings. Smartly, resume information won’t publicly display all information about your credentials, which will make users and privacy advocates happy, while keeping this information walled off from Google and Microsoft/LinkedIn.”
Hold up. Read that last sentence again.
It seemed a bit trivial and obvious when I wrote it, but “walled off from Google and Microsoft/LinkedIn” is incredibly important. Game changing, even, if Facebook plays its cards right. Secondarily, resume information likely being walled off from your network of Facebook friends if one chooses is equally important.
And it is this simple, but crucial little detail that should scare the bejesus out of LinkedIn.
Why? LinkedIn is embroiled in a very important court case with a company that crawls and scrapes LinkedIn data called hiQ. You can read more here to catch up, but the gist is this: hiQ taps into LinkedIn’s public data and alerts its customers to changes in user profiles that might indicate a change in job satisfaction. LinkedIn sent it a cease-and-desist, which the company fought, winning an injunction that allows the hiQ to continue doing business.
LinkedIn isn’t done fighting the case, and hiQ may be lucky to afford the price tag that comes with fighting Goliath, but it’s a game of whack-a-mole that LinkedIn will continue to play regardless of the outcome, or how long it takes to win. Like it or not, technologies are going to access and take LinkedIn’s data for their own benefit. There simply aren’t enough courthouses in enough countries to keep a lid on Pandora’s, or in this case, LinkedIn’s Box.
If users believe believe their privacy is at risk, they may run for the exits. As an AdWeek opinion piece put it, “If you’re like most of the 500 million LinkedIn users, you probably spend a few hours per week on the site reading articles, seeing what your professional pals are up to and, perhaps, networking for a new job.
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“Now imagine if a company that you’ve never heard of used automated bots to download your public profile (viewable via search engines such as Google), analyzed it to identify behavioral signals that you’re job shopping, and warned your employer.
“That’s exactly what a San Francisco-based startup called hiQ Labs can do with its software, which scrapes publicly available LinkedIn profiles to offer clients, according to its website, “a crystal ball that helps you determine skills gaps or turnover risks months ahead of time.”
“Unsettling, isn’t it? Yet a judge decided on Aug. 14 that this was OK.”
Facebook, a closed system, will have no such issues. A strategic decision that stopped Google from just grabbing all of Facebook’s data and becoming an aggregator of social data, and led to the eventual airball that was Google Plus, now puts Facebook in a very advantageous position to be the keeper of everyone’s online resume.
Privacy is a big deal and getting more important by the day. While people may not care about social security numbers getting nabbed by Russian hackers, the fear of an employer getting scoops via LinkedIn is enough to push “delete” on an account.
Which could lead them to Facebook. Google and Microsoft can’t get to Facebook’s resumes. And companies like hiQ, Entelo, HiringSolved, WebClipDrop, Nymeria, and others won’t even see the light of day in this kind of reality. Granted, all of this is dependent upon Facebook really going after the employment market, as well as public opinion turning negative on LinkedIn in a big way.
Big ifs for sure. But if I’m LinkedIn, nothing could be a bigger trick to induce a bad case of insomnia this Halloween.