50 Shades of Privacy

50 Shades of Privacy

Let’s face it, we already knew our online public data was being used for targeted marketing purposes and for public search information (both paid and free). What about data analysis for your company’s use? Are you comfortable with that potential? What if that supposed “free data” was being used to determine if you were going to leave your current company? Well, the fact is, this is currently being done, and the courts are protecting it.

LinkedIn has recently been in a legal tiff with HiQ Labs, a San Francisco-based company that analyzes free data like public LinkedIn profiles to identify the potential of employees to leave a company. Here is what HiQ says about their Keeper technology:

“Keeper is the first HCM tool to offer predictive attrition insights about an organization’s employees based on publicly available data. The solution turns those attrition insights into consumable, easy-to-deploy action plans so HR and business leaders can retain their key talent.

By identifying risk early, addressing potential issues proactively, and deploying remedial actions quickly, Keeper drives immediate business impact across organizations – and provides a built-in feedback loop so you can communicate your retention win to management.”

Both organizations have great points in their arguments presented to the courts. LinkedIn discusses an expectation of privacy for their customers. Essentially, they are stating that their clients shouldn’t have their information harvested that they entrusted to LinkedIn. 

I also, have zero doubt, HiQ’s intention with their Human Resources program is as stated above. It is a great idea to determine if valuable employees might be wanting to leave, and why, then take action to retain them in an organization.  And their argument that they are using data in the public realm only is absolutely correct. 

What is problematic is how Corporate America will really use this technology. Just as companies troll the online world for those using Monster or Indeed for a job search, or mentioning they are unhappy with their current company on Facebook, this is yet another tool to target those that might leave with downsizings, position elimination, and dismissals (often falsified to avoid paying unemployment). Is this the fault of HiQ? No. They are merely providing a service. It does however beg the question, when is enough, enough in protection of our personal data online, public or not?  

There are other issues though that might not have been put forth in this legal tussle. First, how are rankings of employees made? Red, Yellow and Green are nice, but how accurate is the data; does it look at the age of the information or how long since it has been updated? What about inaccurate data online? While HiQ would not want to give away the algorithms that detect retention issues, it is scary to think you might be putting something on your LinkedIn profile or elsewhere online in the public realm that is problematic without knowing it. You could be a person that is in no way unhappy with your current job, but an algorithm could have you targeted for termination in some form. Please do not blame a company for coming up with technology to try to stop employee loss. HiQ does offer the ability to have your data eliminated from their database, which is comforting. Still, could having your info deleted from their system be an “alert” to HR that you might be looking? 

So many questions, which now in the age of AI will be even more impactful regarding privacy. I suppose this article is merely a warning, to again be careful what you communicate online. To remember that nothing you put online is private, no matter what you are told. And now, to keep your information current and without opinion regarding anything job related, lest you become the focus of unwanted attention.  

Karen Silins is a multi-certified, award winning resume writer, career, business and personal branding coach working with individuals and small businesses. After graduating with degrees in education and vocal performance, she made her own career transition into the Human Resources realm. Karen left Human Resources to become an entrepreneur and help jobseekers, executives and fellow entrepreneurs achieve their goals. She keeps current regarding trends in the resume writing, coaching, HR, small business and marketing industries by working daily with individual clients on resume development and career coaching, executive/career management coaching, consulting for small businesses in business plan development, marketing, blogging, hiring and overall HR processes, and providing 20-50+ seminars and workshops annually to a variety of organizations in the greater Kansas City area. She can be reached via her website at www.careerandresume.com.