Who Owns Your LinkedIn Profile?

September 9th, 2010 | by Jason Alba |

Just read an article on RecruitingBlogs by Hung Lee titled Who Owns Your LinkedIn Profile?  What EVERYONE Needs To Know.

By the ominous title I’d suggest that you already know the answer… YOU DON’T.

Well, let’s clarify that a bit.  Lee’s article is all about the ownership outside of LinkedIn’s Terms of Service.  That is, if you work at a company and build your social presence (I assume this is really only for those who do this on an employer’s time) then the question becomes:

If you leave the company, can you take your networks with you?  Or do they belong to the company?

In the UK there has been a ruling FOR the company (and against the former employee, who is a recruiter). Check out this scary title: Court orders ex-employee to hand over LinkedIn contacts.  Yuck.

That is very, very scary.  If this is how it goes then it might be the largest deterrent to doing social stuff while on-the-clock.  Especially since there is already so little loyalty between a company/employee, and employees are moving to different companies so frequently.

I just spent some time on the terms of service and privacy pages and didn’t see anything about who owns the content you post (in most cases, like on Yahoo Groups, THEY DO), or who “owns” your network connections, but here are a few thoughts:

  1. Regularly (like, today) export your Profile as a PDF.  This also grabs all of the testimonials (aka, Recommendations).
  2. Regularly (like, today) export your Contacts to a CSV file.  This is easy to do and provides you with a backup of, at the very least, names and email addresses.
  3. No matter who is “connected” to who, you should understand “networking” to a point to realize that nurturing a relationship with your contacts is up to you and independent of LinkedIn.  Even if you lose your entire LinkedIn account you don’t lose those interpersonal relationships.

I hope this puts things in perspective for you… thoughts?

  1. 6 Responses to “Who Owns Your LinkedIn Profile?”

  2. By tmana on Sep 9, 2010 | Reply

    There’s another, interesting (or perhaps insidious?) layer to that decision: non-compete agreements. In short, if your contacts belong to your employer, then contacting them once you have changed positions may conflict with the non-compete agreement you were required to sign at the start of your employment. Six months, or two years, later — whenever your non-compete agreement expires — they may be in another position in which they may not be allowed to contact *you* for another two years because of a non-compete agreement.

    Add to that, most people are parts of multiple networks (current job contacts, industry contacts, vendor/supplier contacts, contacts from/for their freelance and contract work, former classmates, family members, and community members) that the strictest interpretation of “the company owns your profile and contacts” would suggest the equivalent of individual/identity death the moment a person and his employer part ways.

    This is wrong on so many levels it’s ridiculous.

  3. By Tonya Hendeson on Sep 9, 2010 | Reply

    Jason,

    Good advice! Will make sure. Thanks for posting this.

    ~Tonya

  4. By Donald Larson on Sep 9, 2010 | Reply

    Non-compete agreements rarely would cover social interaction. Discussions of business plans, recruiting, etc. all could be an issue but simple contact and social interaction would be almost impossible to enforce in court (notice I didn’t say never, just nearly impossible!)

  5. By Vicky Zillioux on Sep 10, 2010 | Reply

    People who rely on contacts for the way they do business should always think about maintaining a database in such a way that they would always have access to it. As an employer I would consider it a shared database. If someone had been contacted regarding our business while the employee was with us, I would think they would provide that info when they leave. but it is ultimately someone they found so they are entitled to access that person regardless. If the employer was in good communication with their salesperson, he should know who is being contacted from a pipeline report, anyway. Noncompete agreements are a different subject anyway, I think.

  6. By Sue Ingram on Sep 10, 2010 | Reply

    A very interesting and thought provoking posting. Being UK based and having work in HR in recruitment I understand the recruitment company wanting to retain ownership of the contacts. But I am surprised at the ruling – he built up the contacts to his personal record – what does he do? Set up another personal record? And also, the law is contradictory – hairdressers in the UK have the working practice of taking their clients with them – they are not obliged to a non-compete agreement as that would restrict their rights to earn an income.

    My thoughts are the law is grey on this issue so watch for further developments in the meantime I would follow Jason’s great advice about duplicating records – all the recruiters I knew would be sure to keep their most profitable contacts close to them with their contact details recorded. Further suggestions: amend any onerous non-compete clauses BEFORE you commence employment – respect any reasonable clauses which are accepted and practiced in your sector (particularly if your company is litigious!) and the moment it has passed arrange loads of meetings!

  7. By Jason Alba on Sep 10, 2010 | Reply

    Vicky says:

    >> should always think about maintaining a database in such a way that they would always have access to it.

    ABSOLUTELY.

    That is why I tell people to NOT use LinkedIn as their CRM (there are various ways you can lose access to your account).

    To take it a step further, EVERY professional should have their own CRM, or, database to keep track of professional (and even personal) relationships.

    That’s exactly why I designed JibberJobber, a CRM (or PRM – personal relationship manager) over 4 years ago.

    No company owns your CRM/PRM data… it is YOUR career information that goes with you through multiple jobs.

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