Your data is for sale. It’s something we’ve all known for a while now but $26.2 billion later the conversation has been reignited, if not a bit buried, in the story of Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn.
Ironically, news of the intent to acquire hit while I sat in the keynote for Gartner’s Security and Risk Summit where I am in attendance to talk about customer expectations for data privacy. About six months back, a colleague and I started delving into the topic of customer data privacy expecting to write a research note on customers’ concerns with the over 750 data breaches that occurred last year in the US. Getting to the ironic part, what we found is that while security professionals scramble to secure their data from being hacked, the majority of customers are more concerned (~80% to ~30%) that the information they voluntarily share with companies is being resold or used in a way that they had “no knowledge” of.
I put “no knowledge” in quotation marks because we are signing away the rights to our digital interaction data daily by clicking the “I agree” text boxes at the bottom of licensing agreements so that we can hurry up and access the latest application everyone is talking about.
Legally, we consumers have agreed to share just about everything with just about everyone, so why do people get so bent out of shape when they think of a company like Microsoft having direct access to the data we’ve been populating LinkedIn with?
Whether users knew it or not, LinkedIn was a fairly closed off social network.
If organizations wanted access to spins of LinkedIn data, they needed to purchase one of LinkedIn’s enterprise solutions. This is a lot different than what it’s like to work with Facebook’s free page API or Twitter’s public API that limits data volume but not access to specific types of metadata. The acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft means access to the social profile and networking data of over 400 million professionals who use the social network. Are those profiles alone worth $26.2 billion? Don’t think so highly of yourself 😉
But even though we’re not worth about $60 a pop, doesn’t mean that users aren’t concerned with what this acquisition might mean for the future of the preferred professional social network. Microsoft and LinkedIn’s joint plans make mention of the development of an economic graph, the synergy of the graph data both companies have built to better identify employee skills gaps, and the general blending of external social profiles and internal productivity applications.
At the end of the day, if LinkedIn doesn’t clearly remain a distinct entity in more ways than name, we’ll have a lot of annoyed LinkedIn users questioning if this is what they signed up for.