Who’s the boss of your identity?

Apparently not you anymore. Privacy isn’t what it used to be. Consider the range of business applications of social networking. On the one hand, there’s LinkedIn. It’s a buttoned down environment that puts up barriers to mixing and mingling. Even if you see someone you know, you’ll have to pay LinkedIn to get back in touch if you don’t have a current email address. If you see someone that’s in your friend’s network that you’d like to contact, the LinkedIn cash register is likely to ring again. A sound idea, but it’s taken 4 years for LinkedIn to turn the corner in popularity, if not revenue according to CEO Konstantin Guerike. Even after “turning the corner’ LinkedIn is still raising cash.

Contrast the moderated environment of LinkedIn with the wild west of Jigsaw.com. Jigsaw has an important mission. They intend to map every organization on the planet. They aim to be the repository of employee names, titles, email, and phone numbers of every business worth prospecting. It’s a salesman’s paradise.

The difference is that LinkedIn is opt in while Jigsaw is opt out. You can choose to be in LinkedIn or not. With Jigsaw, you first have to be aware that you are in the database, and then ask to opt out. Their business model puts a value on all of those old business cards you have. Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re in sales and you want to break into Alcoa Aluminum. A search on Jigsaw reveals that they have contact data on over 1,900 Alcoa employees. How did they get that data? From people willing to trade business contacts. Supply two contacts to Jigsaw from your own stash, and get one in return. You can also pay per name.

On the surface, this seems like a boon to someone hungry for a new prospect. On the other hand, it violates the trust I place in those that I give my card to. After all, when I give someone my card, I expect that they will use it, or they will pass it on to someone in their organization that can write me a purchase order. Jigsaw creates a situation in which I don’t know where my contact data will end up. Maybe it’s time to stop giving business cards to people under 30? I don’t think so.

Opt out may not be the preferred arrangement, but at least I have that option. I don’t have that option with all of the other ways my contact data can leak out. Credit card companies, mail order companies, even my grocer may sell my data to a list dealer, or more obnoxiously a telemarketing outfit. Nobody questions where the junk mailer got your name, so why should it be such a big deal with Jigsaw. Just be forewarned that doing business now means you are in the public eye.

I’m reminded of Burningman. Forty thousand people living life out in the open. Showers, sex, dancing, eating…all human activities are open and visible. There’s very little to hide behind on the Playa. Since many of the burners design and write our software, is it any surprise that more and more things that were previously private are now public? I don’t think so. Perhaps the genie is out of the bottle once and for all.

The erosion of privacy has been going on for a long time. There is nothing new in this. The trend has accellerated now that we’re fighting evildoers in today’s 100 year war. The only solution is to model our data security laws on those of the EU. Unfortunately, our contact data will remain unprotected in the name of unfettered business ambition for decades to come.


One Response to “Who’s the boss of your identity?”

  1. Lynn Says:

    I understand that my email addresses get picked up into databases, I just want an easy way to get opt out. It took forever to figure out how to opt out of Jigsaw, I was reccomended http://www.jigsawoptout.com now I get less SPAM from their advertisers.

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