I was astounded when I received an email from one of my contacts asking if I wanted to bid to buy his “Group” that he, as an executive recruiter, had established on a particular social network platform. As the CEO of a company which does executive search, I had not been permitted to join that group. Now, I was informed that the group would be offered to the highest bidder and asked to bid. The platform management soon advised my contact that the highest bid concept was not permitted and that the group could not be “sold.” I wonder if this practice goes on elsewhere and this is the first time I have seen it in action.

What is troublesome to me was that it was not the social media platform which was up for sale or changed ownership. In that case, it which would seem realistic that data would become the “property” of the new owners who ran the platform. In fact, it was only a small group of several hundred on a particular platform in which the individuals joined based on their relationship to the manager of the group. I would be surprised if anyone joined that group expecting that if the manager no longer was in executive search that their “relationship” and “contact” information would be on the auction block and potentially be sold to the highest bidder.

Are there ethical questions behind this? If so, what are they? Do the group participants have the right to not be auctioned? If it had gone through, should each have received compensation too? Who owns your data when you join a group?

There are social media web sites which pay for individuals to submit referral leads—those leads could include your data. There are social media web sites which publish your profile information and which do not permit you to “cloak” or “deny” access to some or all of the information from other members. Many sites populate your profile, etc. from other sites, and this is a good thing. Of course, what is written on public platforms, such as this blog, becomes public.

Can you control access to your contact information if you participate in social media platforms being accessed by a large population or even one person?  Perhaps, but it will take a conscious effort on your part, the cooperation of your employer, if applicable, and a practically non-participatory effort in the major social media sites or sites that capture contact information of members and keep it up-to-date.

Think about your data? What are your expectations when you provide it to a social media site or to an individual?  With more portability of information, you can expect your data to become available.

Think about this issue if you manage the data of others. What is your fiduciary responsibility to those individuals? Does the public have the right to access the information of your swarm?

What is your buzz about?