The Personal Data Backlash — Next Up Recruitment?

We all willingly share our personal data in exchange for something useful but at what cost?

This article is from the new Workforce Futurist Newsletter and asks some key questions for workforce futurists.

We all willingly share our personal data in exchange for something useful. Whether that’s plotting the best route home with Waze, chatting with friends on WhatsApp, or applying for a new job.

Millions have applied for all types of work over the years on sites like, Indeed, Monster, Glassdoor, Upwork, Fiverr, LinkedIn and CareerBuilder.

Have you ever wondered what happened to your data like employment history, address, date of birth, who can access it and who is selling it on to 3rd parties?

There is a cost to providing our valuable data for free and that seems acceptable to most. After-all, we all signed-up to the small-print when we downloaded the app. However recent high-profile data breaches might just push people over the precipice of complacency.

Last week, Facebook had a serious security breach impacting 50 million users, so hackers could log in to other accounts that use Facebook from Tinder to Instagram to Spotify. Personally, I have never had a Facebook account, along with some nonagenerians, North-Koreans and those wanted by Interpol. The perfect marketing machine, but who wants to be sold to? There have also been big data breaches in HR, see for example PageUp, and also LinkedIn.

In my article, “What Has the Internet Ever Done for HR?“, I outline some of the benefits the internet has given HR and recruitment, but also some of the flaws that we need to fix. For example LinkedIn, with 560 million users, requires monetisation of our personal data. We provide our career history free, and Microsoft (who own LinkedIn) then sell this data to recruiters. However this model is breaking fast in some sectors such as tech roles, with the inevitable spam, ghost profiles and unsolicited approaches. Many have switched it off completely.

We need better tools to control our personal data, especially in the job market, and that also includes workers in the gig economy.

Sarah O’Connor, from the FT, makes this point in her article “Let Gig Workers Control Their Data Too”. Building up ratings and your reputation, from say Uber or Upwork can’t be ported to another work platform, so “workers should be given ownership of their online reputations so they can transfer them to new platforms.”

So what’s changing?

Thankfully, with each new data scandal, helped by GDPR rules, a new product is launched with a different business model.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, has a radical plan to upend the World Wide Web (interesting that the word blockchain is not used in his article).

In “Blockchain Platforms Can Enable Good Work” for the RSA, I also outline some ideas on the design features of the next generation of work platforms, including worker-owned platforms, identity verification mechanisms and workers owning their own profiles.

In recruitment, there’s a new vision for data and new business models that will transform the world of work, this is starting with digital career profiles that are verified, owned and managed by individuals.

As Luke Shipley, founder of Zinc says, in his Proof of Human Work,

James Bond’s CV (provided by APPII) with me shaken not stirred

“CVs will look like Trustpilot digital IDs — ratings and references you carry around with you on your phone. You’ll have complete ownership of your reputation and proof of work experience. The idea of holding parts of your work history on others centralised servers will be unthinkable.”

What can you do about it?

Well the obvious place to start is managing your online accounts, cancelling defunct accounts and change your passwords.

Dock, who provide profiles to manage your personal data, have developed a couple of useful tools to try, including Safe Scan for Emails — to see where your emails are being used, and also Safe Scan for passwords to see if your passwords have been compromised.

Please help spread the word about the Workforce Futurist Newsletter!

Share Workforce Futurist by Andy Spence

Disclosure — I work as a strategic advisor, writer, speaker, coach on workforce transformation programmes. I keep my memberships, advisory positions and affiliations updated on my LinkedIn profile.