Preemptive Strike: LinkedIn Killing Key Rapportive Features

It’s no secret that most recruiters have a love-hate relationship with LinkedIn. But whether they’re frustrated with price point, data privacy or overall efficacy, they now can add another reason to shake their fists at the company.  For over two years after their acquisition of Rapportive – a GMail plug in that aggregates contact information and social profiles in a slick sidebar seamlessly integrated with GMail users’ inboxes – the Mountain View based “professional network” made minimal changes to the product’s features or functionality.

But yesterday, everything changed – and LinkedIn sent a clear signal in their announcement that this incredibly effective tool was about to get a lot less useful.

According to LinkedIn, as of July 31, 2014, they will be removing both the “notes” and “Raplets” features from the product. Additionally, and most importantly, information populated from other social networks like Facebook and Twitter will be removed unless that contact also includes that information on their LinkedIn profile itself.

If you remember LinkedIn’s short lived “Intro” app (if you blinked, you probably missed it), you may be questioning LinkedIn’s next move, considering this first foray into leveraging their Rapportive acquisition into their core product offerings was, by any standards, a dismal failure.

But while it may seem, from a big data and CRM perspective, that Rapportive is set to take a giant leap backwards, the truth of the matter is that it’s a smart business move for the company, and one that makes perfect sense given their product roadmap and platform positioning.  A closer look reveals two major reasons most likely behind these big changes – and if these are indeed what’s driving LinkedIn’s Rapportive roadmap, users can expect a far more sweeping set of changes to the core LinkedIn platform in the not-so-distant future.

1. Maximize Profits

LinkedIn has a long track record of removing or blocking free functionality that they can monetize or somehow price at a premium.  LinkedIn limits its native CRM features and functionality strictly to premium users – and if GMail users, particularly those who use Google’s growing product suite, can access these premium features for free, the company is obviously eroding its margins and siphoning off a potentially lucrative revenue stream.

Further, if a member obtains this information without having to actually visit LinkedIn itself, then they are also less likely to visit LinkedIn.com, driving down the site visits and time on site statistics the company relies on as a primary part of its P/L.

2. Minimize Legal Exposure

The second – and far more important reason – likely catalyzing LinkedIn’s most recent move is due not to maximizing profits, but limiting legal liability.  LinkedIn currently has at least three lawsuits currently working their way through various stages of the legal system – and their outcomes, individually and collectively, will set highly influential precedents for recruiting and technology as we know it.

  • LinkedIn v. Robocog, Inc (doing business as HiringSolved) and Shon Burton, a named defendant who’s also HiringSolved’s CEO, was a legal action initiated against the data aggregation startup in January of this year.  For more context and information, check out my earlier post, The LinkedIn Lawsuit: The Truth and Nothing But the Truth and LinkedIn V. HiringSolved: 3 Reasons You Should Care (Even If You’re... by Matt Charney.
  • Perkins, et al. v. LinkedIn Corporation is a nationwide, class action lawsuit challenging LinkedIn’s practice of accessing users’ third party email accounts without the prior consent of their users, scraping, harvesting and storing e-mail addresses that appear in those accounts, and sending multiple reminder e-mails – ostentibly on behalf of the user – advertising LinkedIn to non-members and encouraging them to sign up and set up profiles on the site.  For more information on this class action suit, click here.
  • In re LinkedIn User Privacy Litigation was LinkedIn’s motion to dismiss a putative class action lawsuit concerning LinkedIn’s allegedly misleading privacy policy statement, one that was denied under California’s Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus & Prof. Code §17200 et seq., which confirms the putative plantiffs’ allegations that the company had adequately alleged causation and injury as defined by case law precedent.

In light of these pending legal actions, LinkedIn’s decision to limit Rapportive’s functionality is an important – and prescient – move by the company, which effectively removes any user information not provided directly to the company by its end users from LinkedIn’s product portfolio and onsite experience, and requiring appropriate permissions to continue to access and aggregate associated information.

If a Facebook profile, for example, is listed on the Rapportive sidebar, but not the member’s LinkedIn profile or via direct opt in prior to the date when LinkedIn acquired the product, it begs the question: “how, exactly, did LinkedIn get this information in the first place?”

After its acquisition, Rapportive users found themselves suddenly covered by LinkedIn’s Terms of Service and privacy policy (most without realizing it) – a scary prospect in and of itself.  Don’t forget, LinkedIn owns the data from its acquisitions (including the recently scuttled CardMunch, Pulse and other platforms with associated databases of legacy users’ personal information) – and can remove that data, misappropriate it, or do whatever it so desires with the data provided by users who never agreed to provide it to the company.

With the market for “people aggregation” point solutions & products exploding and the number of GMail extensions and integrations growing, if you’re relying on Rapportive as a “go to” tool in your recruiting toolbox, it may be time to start looking at other options.  I know I will.

DISCLAIMER:  This article and any links provided are for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional or legal advice. Receipt of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship nor is it a solicitation or advertisement to provide legal services.  The views expressed in this article may be outdated or repealed by current law. Do not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel in the appropriate jurisdiction.


Originally Published June 18, 2014 on Recruiting Daily

Views: 174

Tags: Law, LinkedIn, Rapportive, Recruiting Tools / Sourcing

Comment by Amber on June 23, 2014 at 1:27pm

Just got a call the other day from someone who is my LI rep (no idea who they are), and they mentioned that the Talent Finder account I currently have will be eliminated and a "new" type of account will take its place. But they couldn't or wouldn't tell me which features the new account would have. I have no need for LI Recruiter products, and will probably not keep a paid account much longer. 

Comment by Keith Halperin on June 23, 2014 at 8:25pm

@ Nicole: "most recruiters have a love-hate relationship with LinkedIn". Did you mean to say "most recruiters have a hate-hate relationship with LinkedIn"?

:(

Comment by Derdiver on June 24, 2014 at 9:26pm

Keith and Amber #truestory for sure...

Comment by Keith Halperin on June 25, 2014 at 8:05pm

@Derdriver: "Double plus good" or should I say: "horror show"?

Comment by Derdiver on June 25, 2014 at 8:10pm

Horror show...for sure...I pray for a painful and quick demise...

Comment by Keith Halperin on June 25, 2014 at 8:55pm

Thanks, Derek.

:)

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on June 28, 2014 at 12:54am

@Amber very interesting.  LinkedIn told me that "TalentFinder" was eliminated a year ago... then they charged me $200 a month ($2000 per year, paid in advance) for a service called "RecruiterLite" that I really liked, only to remove 90% of its contacting ability within just 6 months.

LinkedIn had a good product.  Maybe too good.  Now they have shaved off 90% of its value.  Probably illegal of them and a RICO violation or Anti-trade violation.  They definitely had a good product, though.  It would be nice if they cold learn to obey basic laws of contracts, etc.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on June 28, 2014 at 7:56pm

@ Nicholas: "It would be nice if they could learn to obey basic laws of contracts, etc."

Why start now?

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