Thursday, April 7, 2011

Employee profiling a reality - take control for yourself

I got a shock today when I visited a company's website. Not only did the banner headline there scream at me, "Like It Or Not, We're Going To Profile You" but it was clear that they're using tracking techniques to identify my visit to their web site.

Graphics on their website are almost inspired by a horror movie! (Jagged blood-drip writing for their '300' Project; sinister eyes on a shadowy figure). Clicking the image here will let you navigate to the website of Zapoint to find out more. But if you browse there with Chrome or Internet Explorer then you'll get a pop-up warning that the website is requesting a certificate to identify you by name. (Firefox didn't warn me.) And they're using services from Hubspot that help companies to "generate traffic and leads through their websites, and convert more of those leads into customers."

So, what's The 300 Project about? Over the next year, Zapoint will process publicly accessible records from social networks and other web sources to compile reports on the employees of 300 selected Fortune-size companies. The company will then use its SkillsMapper software to analyze the data from the Web and present the results in graphical reports to the HR departments of the 300 targeted companies. Company employees will have their skill set, CV and experience ranked and compared to other employees and competitors.

For now, the information about employees will be held in the aggregate. But The 300 Project is a marketing exercise by Zapoint: they are publishing a schedule of which companies they will profile, and when. Then they hope that the companies will pay them for their SkillsMapper software - and to get the names associated with their profiled employees.

In a way, there's no news here: Zapoint is only making use of publicly available information, stuff that's published by the individuals concerned. The problem is that most individuals have probably not begun to think about how their activity - or lack of it - on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networks will be picked up and used by their employer, competitors and companies like Zapoint and those who sell adverts, like Facebook and Google.
You see, it's not sufficient in this connected age just to opt-out: the fact that an employee is not on the social networks makes them invisible to Zapoint and so terribly unimpressive compared to others viewed in the rankings Zapoint will make available to HR departments.

And there are untold implications of the technology if you do make use of it: For example, 'checking in' with location-aware apps (Facebook Places, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc.) can let your sales competitors know you're making a call on a prospect! But that's another story...

Bottom line: we referred yesterday to the article by Tom Peters The Brand Called You and this is still more impetus to take control of how you, as an individual, are perceived on the Internet. It's no longer good enough to be casual about what you publish; and you can't escape by opting out, because people will draw their own conclusions from that.

Ironic, isn't it, that 'time saving' technology now means we have to spend more time managing our own 'brand.'
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