Sorry to be to one to tell you. But it’s true. They are yours but they are not. It’s complicated.
You met Jane Peters* 10 years ago have been doing business with her on and off since then. She is in your Contacts in Outlook on your PC. You joined Allied Systems a year ago and uploaded your Contacts into the enterprise Outlook. You sent her an email about a potential deal. She thus entered Allied’s CRM. She eventually bought one of Allied’s services. Unbeknownst to her, Jane now belongs to Allied.
You found out because you left Allied to work at United. When you left Allied you tried to download a copy of the Contacts file from the enterprise Outlook. You were a shy person and during your time at Allied you did not meet a single person. So, the number of people in your Contacts was the same the day you left Allied as it was on the day you started: 1984. But you were locked out of the PC and you could not do it. No matter, you are the “always have a plan B” guy and you had a copy of the 1984 contacts on your iPhone.
United and Allied sell similar products so you thought that your old friend Jane should hear about United’s amazing gizmos. She agreed the gizmos were amazing and she took her business to United because she trusted you and your judgment. Unfortunately for you, Allied heard about this and did not like it. It sued you for stealing the Contact file and the customer (Jane) and it sued United for allowing you to upload stolen property unto their systems (i.e, your, or their, Contacts.)
You were a bit upset about all this so you uploaded all your contacts to LinkedIn and made them public. Allied was not amused.
I could continue this parable but you got the point a while back. Every time you enter your contacts into an enterprise system or into most social apps, the contacts acquire another life that belongs to someone else. There may be legitimate reasons for this of course. You may have consented to this trade to receive a free service. Businesses have a legitimate interest in keeping a record of communications with clients or prospects — in case someone else is assigned to work on the deal, or in case of a legal dispute with the client, etc.
At Reachable, we thought that this state of affairs was not good for the employee nor for the employer. After all, the fuss is about something that may not be that valuable. While I would not just hand them out, if you got a hold of my Contacts and started calling my relationships chances are you would not go very far. Your best chance of getting to them is through me. Still people do get sued about things like these.
Our response was to become the Contact Data Switzerland. Contact data uploaded into Reachable’s platform is date stamped and belongs to whoever uploaded it. A person can upload it or a company can. Until a court tells us otherwise, it belongs to whoever uploaded it.
Companies and groups can set up a collective pool of Contacts hosted on Reachable and use Reachable to datamine the data to find connections to targets without sharing the original raw data in the group. Employees join such enterprise groups with their data and leave with their data. Companies add enterprise data to the group and can take it away anytime. Everyone retains ownership of their data but the value of the Contacts can be exploited by the enterprise team while the employee is part of the group.
Every body wins with clear and simple rules and a technology solutions that embodies and enforces the rules — Reachable.
* All names are fictitious of course, except for mine…