LinkedIn Does KM?

We've been keeping our eye on LinkedIn with the basic assessment that it has great potential, but needs more tools. A network of valuable contacts becomes truly valuable when you can actually do things with it. Recently LinkedIn took another step in adding just these types of tools. When I logged in I noticed some new items on the left-hand nav menu. Near the top is "Company Groups" followed by the name of my firm. Following the firm name link, I am greeted with a higher functioning LinkedIn Group that is already populated with firm contacts. Tabs across the top include: Overview, Q&A, News, Updates, Members and Settings. The Q&A tool allows Fulbright contacts to ask and answer questions within the group. This is a basic KM sharing tool, allowing information requests to be posted and shared. So LinkedIn has deployed a KM tool to our firm. Makes you go ... Hmmmmmm. My first reaction is positive at having a great tool available, but then reason takes over. From the LinkedIn User Agreement:
You do not have to submit anything to us, but if you choose to submit something (including any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques and data), you must grant, and you actually grant by concluding the Agreement, a non-exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royalty-free right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, and use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, anything that you submit to us, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or any third parties.
Fitting for a Halloween theme. I know I'm scared after reading that. So now I have a powerful KM tool sitting under the nose of 407 firm employees. And if they use it, we risk giving a license to firm IP away to LinkedIn. Now I'm conflicted. Another possible red flag - when you select the "Members" tab you are greeted with the following:
Security Reminder: Only current employees of (the Firm) should appear below. If you see a person that does not belong to this company group, click "Flag this person as..." to anonymously remove them from the group.
Again, I start off with a positive thought. We can remove anyone falsely claiming to be part of the firm, especially if they appear as an attorney. But then reality comes back. This means the false contacts can flag me for removal. Crap. Which leads us to the bottom line. Even though these are great tools, they are in full control of LinkedIn and not our firm. For lawyers, with a duty to protect client information, this arrangement is problematic. I have to do some more thinking about all of this since I hate to pass on good (and free) technology. Maybe there are ways to resolve the issues I raised. In any event, LinkedIn is charging ahead and taking steps to expand its value to its true potential. We'll keep watching with anticipation, but also with a dose of common sense. P.S. LinkedIn added an "Applications" option too. More on that later.

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Donna Fryer said...

Great post! Now I'm scared too! Creepy huh? Happy Halloween.

Ben Wright said...

EULAs are governed by contract law. Contract law is a two-way street. Just as web administrators and software vendors can communicate to visitors/customers what they assert to be the legal terms, customers can communicate back. In principle, contract law does not favor either administrators or customers. Individuals may be able to use contract law to assert their legal terms on other parties, such as web sites like LinkedIn or search engines. --Ben My ideas are not legal advice for any particular situation; they are just ideas for public discussion.


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