Erika Rottenberg Talk Recap

By Eric Goldman

Yesterday, in celebration of International Data Privacy Day, Santa Clara University hosted Erika Rottenberg, LinkedIn’s GC, for a lunchtime talk. Despite putting the event together at the last minute, we had a strong turnout of about 90 folks in the audience. Erika focused her remarks mostly for the students in the audience, encouraging them to think about the future implications of their online activities. Some of the parts of her talk that I found most interesting:

* LinkedIn has 34M users and is adding about 1.5M new users a month

* Approx. 29,000 LinkedIn users have an SCU affiliation (such as current or former students)

* LinkedIn gets about 2 subpoenas a month. [corrected from the talk]

She talked about how employers are researching job candidates online (for yet another story on this topic, see this Sun-Sentinel article). Though hearsay, she’s been told that approximately 10% of final job applicants don’t actually get an offer due to inappropriate online activities. She gave some great examples of good and bad uses of online networking sites:

The good. She discussed Henk van Ess, the “Accidental Entrepreneur,” who became a successful web retailer after discovering a better iPhone battery from China and then generating customers for it through his LinkedIn activity. She also discussed that company recruiters are trolling through sites like LinkedIn looking for new employees, leading to serendipitous job offers.

The bad. Her flagship case study was Joshua Lipton (see the AP story). Lipton was awaiting sentencing in a drunk driving incident that caused serious injuries to a victim. During this time, he went to a Halloween party in a “jailbird” costume wearing jailhouse attire, and photos from the party were posted to his Facebook page. The prosecutor submitted the photos to the judge, which prompted the judge to give a harsher sentence in response to his apparent lack of remorse.

Erika also discussed James Andrews, a Ketchum advertising executive who flew to Memphis to train FedEx employees about using social media like Twitter. While traveling, he tweeted “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say ‘I would die if I had to live here!'” Perhaps not surprisingly, a FedEx employee saw Andrews’ tweet, was offended by the seeming denigration of Memphis, and shared the tweet with FedEx’s big brass. The result was a strong rebuke by FedEx to Andrews and his employer Ketchum, putting a lucrative advertising account in some jeopardy, and some questions about whether Andrew had the personal expertise to teach others about using social media given the apparent faux pas. (There’s a lot written on the Andrews situation; here is the blog post that broke the story).

[Edited to make some changes]