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Linking social media accounts and privacy issues: The hidden cost of lunch

March 13, 2011

Purportedly the quote “There is no such thing as a free lunch” has been attributed to economist Milton Friedman. While I have been unable to uncover concrete and indisputable evidence as to the sole attribution, I believe the sentiment is spot on in countless applications to life in general.

Recently, a friend was enraged over Google’s forced linkage of their YouTube account with a Google email. This person did not want or need another email account but in order to access their video content on YouTube (intent on purging and deleting it) they had to acquiesce to creating another email account with Google, giving up their personal information to do so. [Hey wait, YouTube is free right? Well, yes…and…no.] In response to my friend’s problem, I suggested they bypass the request as I’d been able to do many times before, but alas, Google/YouTube was no longer allowing for the workaround. I shrugged my shoulders and thought “Oh well, it probably won’t happen to me…I’ll just wait and see…”. Denial. Yes.

This morning I attempted to subscribe to a series of videos on YouTube and was surprised and angered to hit the Google/YouTube roadblock, finding it impassable. As my blood pressure rose and my brain searched for workarounds, I found myself nearly willing to either create yet another email account just to get to my “stuff”. Fortunately my adrenaline quickly subsided and my researcher tendencies took over.

Data. I need data. But first, let’s explore the problem.

In my travels throughout the social networking universe, I have noticed that YouTube/Google aren’t the only sites force-feeding the “link your accounts” business. Recently, Facebook, LiveJournal and a few other sites (more subtly and less dictatorially) also began offering (read “encouraging” and nearly strong-arming) linkage of emails and other social networking site accounts. Many user postings I read regarding intentional or accidental linkages brought up concerns of privacy as users recounted having different types of accounts for different purposes (i.e. one account is professional, another is personal) and therefore rejected out of hand the notion of merging the professional and the private. One angry poster on YouTube’s help forum stated “One is for finding a job and my resume and the other is for my private use of the internet. Never the two shell (sic.) meet…” (kl9ulw, 2010). The frustrated user went on to point out “I don’t want potential employers knowing what is on my facebook, I don’t want potential employers knowing what I subscribe to on my youtube” (kl9ulw, 2010).

The importance of having separate accounts for professional and personal purposes is salient. Countless articles have touted the benefits of using social media for recruiting purposes, recognizing the ability to reach a wider audience as lucrative, facilitating an enhanced chance of attracting and acquiring top talent. Recent articles published by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reinforce the use of several sites in tandem, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. The goal is to achieve saturation in an “aggressive and ongoing” (Babcock, 2010) campaign designed to optimize recruiting efforts as well as promote a larger internet presence for the recruiting organization.

It makes sense to leverage the ubiquitous web-presences afforded by the groundswell of social networking options as a marketing tool for talent acquisition, keeping in mind a blended approach is critical. Forsaking traditional outlets for social networking-only recruiting would be ill-advised and perhaps even illegal as such narrow recruiting efforts may disenfranchise those who perhaps could not learn of and apply for job openings because they lack access to the internet. From a best-practices standpoint, it is important to fully understand the usability differences in each social networking platform, recognizing uniqueness in functionality and audience (Black, 2010). Comparing and contrasting social networking options remains a post for another day, however it is necessary to point out differences in degree, and even in kind, clearly exist.

All of the rose-colored glasses reasons to utilize social networking sites for recruiting (and other activities) are convincing, but benefits come with an enormous tradeoff: privacy in the form of personal information. While the many dimensions of the privacy issue deserve their own treatment in separate blog postings, it is worth noting that recruiters have recently come under fire for unauthorized “internet snooping” of job candidates’ backgrounds via search engines, sometimes discovering damaging pictures or posts resulting in a decision not to hire a candidate or even to terminate an existing employee. The legal problems are tangible. Recruiters and their organizations are well-advised to become educated and up-to-date as to how to correctly and legally utilize social networking sites and internet search engines in connection with talent acquisition efforts.

Returning to my YouTube/Google dilemma. I am fortunate to teach and research in the area of technology and am therefore well aware of the many alternatives to YouTube, some of which I have utilized and others of which I have seen my students expertly deploy. I haven’t decided whether or not to perform a massive purge of my YouTube account (workarounds notwithstanding) but I am intent upon making certain I keep backups of all videos, in various formats, in a safe and permanently accessible place.

Meanwhile, I have decided to collect data regarding individuals’ perceptions of privacy issues as they relate to certain social media applications. I’m excited to develop this line of inquiry, making my obsession with social media a real and actionable manifestation of research I have planned to pursue for a very long time; as well as the fact that the research may give validation to the enormous number of hours I spend online. Maybe.

Validation or no validation, I will report upon the findings of the instant research as they come.

Resources

Babcock, P. (2010, November 22). Recruiting strategies for social media. Staffing Management. Retrieved from http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/staffingmanagement/Articles/Pages/RecruitingStrategiesforSocialMedia.aspx

Black, T. (2010, April 22). How to use social media as a recruiting tool. Inc. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/04/social-media-recruiting.html

kl9ulw. (2010, August 19). re: How do I stop account linking? [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from http://www.google.co.uk/support/forum/p/youtube/thread?tid=0d1bda0c6c45b882&hl=en

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    May 11, 2011 6:39 am

    What’s worse, some sites don’t even allow you to delete your account at all, or only bits of it. So you leave a digital trail, which can be used for semantic advertising and stuff. I always check first on http://www.accountkiller.com if I can remove a site if I want to. Now that Skype has been bought by MS, I wonder what they can do with all those data. You can’t delete your Skype account at all!

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