Imagine your great-grandchildren interacting with your likeness on a daily basis, all derived from your Facebook media, Vine videos and your personality from your Tweets.
Humans, both poor and rich have continued to seek out the greatest quest since the dawn of mankind; how do we stay alive in this world? Fortunately, (or not fortunately) new technologies are emerging both now, including some fascinating developments by leading think tanks, including Stanford.
[After Life Technology emerges to store, replicate, and even reanimate the deceased based on the digital data we're emitting every day]
Whether you find it creepy, narcissistic, or a thoughtful way to connect with future-generations, this is a choice we’ll all be forced to reckon with. Should we shutter accounts? Allow them to be memorials, with or without comments? Allow data to be used to digitally reanimate us? There’s even impacts to corporations, as employees who are public in social channels who will eventually leave this plane, and a communications plan will need to be erected to deal with both the grief at a human way, but also how their personal, or hybrid (work/personal), or corporate social media accounts will be used.
[Even employers need to plan an after-life policy for employees using personal social media for business purposes]
Scenario Matrix: Deceased Employee used Personal Social Accounts for Work Purposes
Currently, Altimeter has found that there are hundreds of employees in many companies using personal social accounts for work. We also find that corporate accounts blend and merge with personal accounts, making the blue between personal and work, sometimes indistinguishable. The following matrix breaks down some likely scenarios that could occur:
|Family of deceased mandates content to be removed
||IP created at work is owned by company, yet employee may have used personal social accounts
||IP created at work is often owned by company but now as people use personal social accounts, who owns?
|Deceased employee has content set to publish on timer
||Deceased employee has content on timer, set to publish in coming weeks, potentially conflicting with announcement strategy, messaging and general confusion.
||Does company have ability or right to alter settings or access login credentials?
|Digital reanimation efforts on former deceased employee
||A digital reanimation company seeks to activate likeness of former employee, including using content created around workplace
||IP ownership at question, including potential monetization of reanimate likeness
|Family requests social media accounts
||The family requests access to social media accounts, except they were created at work, and span both personal and work life
||Questions cause legal action due to IP, personal information rights, privacy, with variations at every country
|Family has access to corporate social media accounts
||Using Lifelocker, the deceased has turned over access to social accounts that deceased employee used during work.
||Ownership is not clear, as the account spans personal and professional usage.
While immature, there are several impacts to society, business, family, law that should give us all pause to consider, here’s a running list of what I’ve observed:
Impact to Society
Impact to Individuals
Impact to Family
Impact to Employers
- Corporate Social Media Policies Post-Life: While I don’t see much online, companies must also develop social media policies on how hybrid accounts (personal accounts that are branded with company, like (LionelAtDell) will be used, or not used. Could public social media content created at work be used by third parties including the family, or future digital reanimation companies?
- Most employment contracts indicate that all content created at the company (on company networks, or software) is owned by the company. What right does a company have to use that public facing social media content, after an employee passes on?
Impact to Social Networks
Future Tech: Digital Reanimation
- Future: I visited the Stanford Virtual Reality lab last month, and was able to hear from the Professors who have a simulated lab that they’re already starting to experiment with aggregating Facebook photos to recreate faces. They could easily do this for the deceased.
- Legacy Locker: Allows for the loved ones of a deceased to manage the social media accounts, ecommerce accounts, banking accounts, and more, through a one-stop management tool.
- _LivesOn: Slated to launch soon, this tool would provide Tweets post-life for deceased to communicate with those around them based on analysis of your existing twitter content and behaviors.
- Microsoft Research is conducting an experiment called Life Bits and is capturing an individuals full life on digital record, to understand how to use this technology in a number of methods
- LifeNaut.com was created to help people build a rich profile of information that preserves their essential, unique qualities for future generations and family members.
A New Industry Will Slowly Emerge to Digitally Reanimate The Deceased
Expect a new industry to emerge that offers the following services: Estate planners factor in social media accounts, and blogs and websites, as part of the estate. New software emerges to allow people to opt-in to have themselves digitally communicating with their future kin for generations. In a few short years, expect new virtual reality and simulation software to aggregate and analyze a deceased photos/videos from social networks, and replicate their face, mannerisms, in a way we are most familiar with. In the not-so-radical future, expect that future generations will be able to have the capability to replicate you in a virtual manner, based on the digital trails we’re leaving behind by the gigabyte.
Assume technology will advance to digitally reanimate us, individuals, families, officials, employers must plan for this inevitable future now.
(Photo Credits used under Creative Commons by Raffaello)
Interestingly, I’ve been meeting more compliance, legal, and governance professionals in meetings involved in brand side discussions around social business strategies. To understand the needs of this specific role’s goal is to protect the company but enable business to connect to customers Altimeter conduct an Open Research project
My colleagues Analyst Alan Webber and Researcher Jaimy Szymanski interviewed 33 professionals and vendors on the front end of social media risk management and surveyed 92 professionals who said social media risk management was either a significant part or the primary part of their job. The result is our report Guarding The Social Gates: The Imperative For Social Media Risk Management which looks at the newly emerging field of social media risk management.
If you’re a social strategist, (or serve one on agency or vendor side) it’s important you know how to manage risk as you roll out social business programs. Please forward this research report to those who are guarding the gates.
This Open Research report includes:
- Interviews with 33 professionals of vendor and risk management, including those from top brands.
- Survey of 92 professionals who have a significant part or the primary part of their job in risk management
- Nearly a dozen frameworks, graphics, charts, and flow diagrams
I will cross link to insightful reviews and related content.
Companies should empower their employees to safely use social networks by first guiding, training, and rewarding
While love struck teens are quick to share their Facebook passwords with each other, now a rash of corporations, colleges, and even government employers have been requesting that current employees and future candidates share their personal information by exposing their social networking accounts. Why do companies require access to this information? They seek to find out exactly how the individual behaves, or represents the company or previous company. Imagine being an interview and getting to the final stages then the recruiter offers a job offer with the only requirement access to personal social networking sites, “If you’ve nothing to hide, then its not an issue, right?”
Facebook made statements on how individual privacy was important, and released a statement on how they would: “We’ll take action to protect the privacy and security of our users, whether by engaging policymakers or, where appropriate, by initiating legal action”. They then followed up that they would not take legal action by clarifying that: “While we do not have any immediate plans to take legal action against any specific employers, we look forward to engaging with policy makers and other stakeholders, to help better safeguard the privacy of our users”. No clear solutions were provided, other than a shaking finger.
Companies Should Examine How Advanced Corporations Prepare for Social Business
Facebook didn’t clear up the solution, so here’s how I would approach the situation if these were clients I was working with, instead I would reference Altimeter’s recent research on How Advanced Corporations Prepare for Social Business (Report) and highlight how companies like Intel, Dell, Adobe, HRBlock have prepared their companies through a series of programs including governance, policies, training, and beyond. Companies should follow the social business hierarchy of needs, and should:
- Start with Governance via Policies that are Easy to Understand. Provide Clear Policies on what’s expected in employee behavior on social networking, and what’s not expected. A clear FAQ, like Cisco’s social media program guidelines, should be offered free of legalese.
- Offer an Internal Training Program for Existing and New Hires. Secondly, offer training programs, both like Intel’s Digital IQ online course for employees, supplemented with an online quiz in order to be a certified Social Media Professional (SMP. As well as offer ongoing training programs, and in person peer based learning sessions like Dell’s social media and communities (SMaC) university.
- Reward Good Behavior and Foster a Culture Of Safe Enablement. Finally, rather than penalize employees for bad behavior, instead reward them like Salesforce has rewarded internal employees, dubbed the “Chateratti” for helping each other, and the top 25 were invited to a leadership offsite event.
A knee jerk reaction of companies is to either ban access to social networks (an ineffective strategy due to proliferation of mobile devices) or to break down trust by not empowering employees to do what’s right by demanding access to social networks.
Update: Augie Ray has similar thoughts, broken out by viewpoints for Employer and Employee
Your Boss May Own Your Facebook Wall Posts
Both employers and employees may be surprised to find that employee created blog posts, YouTube, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook profiles, and even tweets may be owned by companies. Yes, even those personal pictures you took last Friday with your loved ones, or direct messages in Twitter could belong to your employer. Why is this? Employees sign employment contracts that may indicate that all intellectual property created during employment may be owned by the company, let’s dive into what you should know:
Work, Online, and Life Mix
As employees check personal websites at work (and likely on work computers) they are indeed using corporate infrastructure. Similarly, as employees do work from home in the evening on personal or work computers the lines continue to blur. It can become even more blurry, as the work and lifestyle content share on social networks becomes one in the same. For example, a LinkedIn account that describes an individual’s career goals which she uses to network with prospects is both personal and work related. Secondly, a product manager who announces new features using his Twitter account is discussing work-related content.
Social Accounts Created At Work, Who Owns Them?
What becomes even more dizzying is the thousands of professionals that have career-related blogs that attract companies in the first place. Who owns their blog posts during their tenure at a company? If an employee generated revenue from those blog posts should the revenue go back to the employer? What if a career blog is launched during employment at a company and discusses information related to the company, or a LinkedIn profile during employment, who owns them?
Case Example: Cisco’s CTO on Twitter and Her Million+ Followers
The real question is: Would a company even want this information? I discussed this on Twitter and many scoffed at the ideas that a company would want bits of 140 characters at a time. Take for example the Twitter account of Padmasree of Cisco. She created this account during her employment at Cisco, and talks about both personal and Cisco related content. Her Twitter account, as the CTO of Cisco is on the suggested users list by Twitter and she has over 1,200,000 followers. This is clearly an asset to her and Cisco, and if she leaves would be a loss to Cisco. I’ve spoken in public with Jeanette Gibson of Cisco communications, and they make it clear it is an account owned by Padmasree, she owns it if she decides to leave Cisco.
Guest Post: Perspective From A Lawyer
I’m not a lawyer, so I’ve asked one to comment on this topic. I recently moderated a panel at Blog World Expo on the topic of sponsored conversations, and I was delighted to meet Attorney Lisa J Borodkin, (her blog, Twitter) who specializes in federal court litigation and the resolution of complex commercial disputes. Her substantive expertise is copyright, trademark and new media law. She commented on this post draft post, and gave me permission to publish the following, which are completely in Lisa’s words, she writes:
“There are several dimensions to this issue.
First, the contract law aspect.
It’s important in the age of the blog and Twitter that people understand that a clause claiming all “intellectual property” created during the term of employment would be property of the company would cover tweets and blog posts. This provision would also cover anything else creative the person did on the side, as a hobby, such as writing a screenplay, or creating a comic strip, even purely for fun.
For this reason, when I represent entertainment executives who are presented with this type of clause in an employment contract, I ask that it be restricted only to intellectual property created within the scope of their job duties under the agreement. The rationale is that if you are not being paid to create something, then the company shouldn’t own your output simply because it is created during the term of employment. That would be a windfall for the company. So it’s a new twist on an issue that has been around for a while. The twist is that when these provisions were first written, I doubt anyone ever thought of blogging or Twitter. So this ownership should be only tied if possible to the type of job the person is hired for.
Second, the copyright law aspect.
Most terms of service for blog hosting sites and Twitter provide that the user is the author and owns the copyright in the blog post or Tweets. (Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote on the subject: http://lisaborodkin.com/ip-protection-for-blog-posts/ ) They also provide that, by using the blog hosting provided by the site, the user grants a perpetual free license to the blog host for using the content. This is a pretty fair distribution of rights. Everyone wins.
The point here is that company “ownership” of the blog or tweet content is not the only option. For most company purposes, a shared license or joint copyright would probably also be just as beneficial. For the blogger, ensuring that the blogger is always credited as the author of the work with a credit and trackback or link is probably the key condition.
Third, the policy aspect.
The larger question is whether the job or industry the person is in is of the type that a company would find it beneficial for the person to be blogging during work hours or using work equipment. There is a good online database of social media policies from a variety of companies at http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php They vary wildly, from PR firm Porter Novelli’s “Never comment anonymously” rule, to the EFF’s detailed advice on “How to blog anonymously.” As you state, the reality is that people will blog, Tweet and use social networks, and it is healthier for companies to embrace that and recognize the value in such individual activities, where it is beneficial to the company’s mission.
By now I hope everyone realizes that thousands of lawyers every day are fully employed in reviewing millions of company emails that have been subpoenaed in lawsuits all over the world. As long as a company reminds everyone that they have no right of privacy in anything that goes through the company’s computer systems, and that this extends beyond email to social networks, then employers and employees can undertake these activities mutually aware of the risks and rewards. The hope is that both will find shared value in mixing social media with work and allocate the potential economic rewards in an equitable manner.”
Jeremiah: Thanks Lisa for your insight, it’s interesting that many employees probably don’t realize that content that goes through the company’s systems is owned by the employer –even their personal Facebook messages.
- Companies are attracted to potential employees with the ability to communicate online, and those that have a built-in following, yet the rights over the content created aren’t entirely clear.
- Both personal and work lives are mixing online and off, creating blurry lines between ownership of content. In many cases, legacy employment contracts give ownership to the company –even personal created content on company systems.
- Employees are creating social content that relates to work often on company-owned property, or during work hours.
- Employees should get educated on this topic and find out what it means in your existing employment contract. Get a lawyer that understands the language of the contract, and can advise and protect you.
- Employees should carefully review their existing employee contract to know the boundaries, risks, and liability for their online activity.
- Employees should understand how to create a “carve out” in the employment contract for personal created media.
- Companies should understand benefits and risks, then evaluate their social media policy and update it to reflect the changing world of social as personal and work lives collide.
- Companies and employees should setup training, policies, and a dedicated group within a company to help employees to understand best practices in the new world where personal and work content collide in the workplace and at home.
Updated: Someone tweeted this related cartoon out.