Are our friends our IP?

Salesforce is teaming up with Facebook to let customers leverage their employees’ Facebook friends. That will help companies find better employees and, not unexpectedly, upsell to their employees friends and friends of customers.

Salesforce users who build applications on Facebook will get immediate access to the social networking site’s 120 million users worldwide, and be able to leverage Facebook users’ links.

Upon learning that news, I discovered my vocabulary contained words I didn’t even imagine I knew.

Look at it this way: You spend a lifetime building up friends, with both parties seeing each other through bad times and enjoying the good times, sharing confidences and all the other good things friendship brings.

You get them to join you on Facebook, and make new friends there.

Then you find out that companies are leveraging your Facebook friends without your say-so. How does that make you feel?

With all the effort one puts into making friends, I suggest we treat them as intellectual property, and treat violations of that relationship as severely as one would treat violations of IP rights.

It’s one thing to recommend a friend for a job when your employer asks you for a recommendation; it’s quite another for your employer to glom onto your Facebook friends without your say-so and pitch them. Who says your friends will welcome the pitch? Who says you won’t get bad feedback?

What about privacy? Well, no less an authority than Vint Cerf, one of the driving forces behind the Internet, has said words to the effect that the age of privacy is over and we should get over it. I respectfully beg to disagree. He may be an authority on computing and the Internet but that doesn’t make him an authority on ethics or privacy issues.

Me, I wanted to call the Law & Order: SVU team on hearing about the rationale for Salesforce’s teaming up with Facebook. Still do, as a matter of fact.

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