Does the Company Own Your LinkedIn Contacts?


We have a ton of new employees at my day job. As part of the on-boarding process, I just sent out a company email asking our new colleagues to check out our social media properties, which include our Twitter profile, Facebook page and LinkedIn company page.

I wrote, “Wanted to remind everyone that your LinkedIn profile is your own. Connect with one another, don’t connect, list yourself as a janitor or whatever. It’s all good. Just remember to follow the company on LinkedIn!”

I’m inspirational like that.

One of my colleagues chimed in and wrote, “And please hide your LinkedIn contacts. We must continue to work in the shadows.”

For those of you who don’t know, LinkedIn allows people to view the names and contact information of your connections unless you adjust your settings. It is possible that your competitors are sifting through your data and analyzing your connections; however, the chances are slim. You’re just not that successful or interesting.

Now get your reading glasses out. This is what it looks like when you change your privacy settings.

Can someone at your job tell you to keep your LinkedIn connections private? Well, maybe. Let’s take a step back.

Your LinkedIn account has two components: your profile and your connections.

  • Almost everyone agrees that your profile, which can also serve as your resume or CV, is yours to own and maintain. Have fun. Call yourself a CEO and make yourself queen for a day. Nobody cares until you try to get a job with false information.
  • The tricky part comes with your connections. In Britain, the courts have ruled that the people who are connected to your LinkedIn profile probably belong to your employer. In the United States, the courts have ruled that LinkedIn connections are not trade secrets and they’re probably yours to keep. Do as you will, yo.

So It never hurts to keep your contacts private, but as a former HR lady, I want companies to keep their eyes on the prize. Make sure you have the necessary confidentiality agreements and non-disclosure agreements in place so that real trade secrets are not divulged. Protect your intellectual property by clarifying a code of conduct. Define appropriate behavior.

And then let’s all get the hell off the internet, okay?

We have real work to do. (Well, other people have real work to do.)

Does your employer have rules for the way you manage your LinkedIn account?

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