Tag Archives: Linkedin

The Ethics Of Data Scraping

What is your position on the ethics of data scraping? Is it right, or is it wrong?

Huh? You’ve never even heard of data scraping? That’s not unusual; most people probably haven’t heard of it either.

But if you utilize a professional networking web site like LinkedIn, you place yourself at considerable risk if you fail to consider the presence of data scrapers.

Why? Because these firms “scrape” information off publicly available web sites and then use the data to produce products and services. One such firm, a small organization named hiQ, culls information from LinkedIn’s public profiles. Then it relies on that data to identify employees who may be seeking jobs elsewhere, and it reports those employees to their current employers.

How can hiQ possibly know if a LinkedIn user is looking for another job? It might assume, for instance, that an individual who suddenly updates his LinkedIn job profile might be tidying up his resume for a career search.

It certainly isn’t a foolproof method, but data scrapers don’t guarantee the predictive accuracy of their information. That’s why hiQ’s web site promises employers that it will simply “provide a crystal ball that helps you determine …turnover risks months ahead of time.

LinkedIn, needless to say, is displeased with hiQ’s use of its data. It is now engaged in a legal action to compel hiQ to cease these activities.

So what do you think? Is hiQ acting in an ethical manner? Is it right to make a profit by using a person’s data, without notifying him, to inform his employer that he might be looking for employment elsewhere?

To be sure, reasonable minds may differ about whether data scraping is an ethical business activity. But regardless of your opinion about this question, perhaps we can agree on a practical implication.

The next time you’re ready to update your LinkedIn profile, you should stop and think for a moment. Do you really want to do it?

It may not be a harmless action. After all, your employer may be tracking you.

The Worst Password Ever

Are you feeling a bit insecure about the strength of your online passwords? If so, then you’re certainly not alone. Most of us don’t use the random strings of capital letters, small letters, numbers, and punctuation marks that security experts always recommend. Likewise, most of us don’t bother to change our passwords on a regular basis.

But if you’re worried that one of your choices might have earned the title of Worst Password Ever, please banish that concern from your mind. That particular title appears to have been earned by — of all people — Mark Zuckerberg, the Chief Executive Officer of Facebook.

Why? A few years ago, Zuckerberg established the password dadada for his LinkedIn account. Then he used the same password for at least three other major social media accounts. And he never updated that choice, even though LinkedIn subsequently announced that the passwords of more than six million users were accessed by cyber-hackers.

How do we know this? Because someone recently used his LinkedIn password to take over his accounts. The hackers did no damage, other than embarrassing the founder of the world’s largest social media network.

Even if his LinkedIn password had not been stolen, a password like dadada would have been easy to guess. After all, Zuckerberg and his wife have been eager to post photographs of their new children on Facebook. A hacker could easily surmise that these children might call their father dada.

So what insights can be gleaned from this news story? The obvious one, of course, is that we should all take password security very seriously. Especially those of us who haven’t changed our LinkedIn passwords for several years!

But a more subtle insight involves the inherent insufficiency of our internet security system. If it is so burdensome that one of the world’s most successful internet entrepreneurs cannot compel himself to take it seriously, what chance do any of us have to manage it well?

Nevertheless, for most of us, a password based security system is our only option. So perhaps, every once in a while, we might choose to take a moment to update a password or two.

When should we start? Well … why not right now?