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Court requires Glassdoor reveal identities of anonymous users

(BUSINESS NEWS) Glassdoor is being forced to identify anonymous reviewers in ongoing grand jury case and their fight may already be over.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals has recently denied Glassdoor Inc’s motion to quash a grand jury subpoena requiring the company to reveal identifying information about anonymous users who wrote reviews about a separate company.

Although reviews are anonymous, users on Glassdoor must provide an email address, which does not appear on the site. Before the company posts a review, the author is notified that while rare, their information may be disclosed if required by law. However, Glassdoor’s Privacy Policy also notes that the company will “take appropriate action to protect the anonymity” of users.

Glassdoor argued that complying with the subpoena would violate anonymous speech rights and violate privacy. The Court of Appeals was like, yeah whatevs, this is about a federal case so give up those names.

The subpoena is in relation to an ongoing investigation by an Arizona Federal Grand Jury. Allegedly, a government contractor that administers two Department of Veteran’s Affairs programs committed wire fraud and misused government funds. As of March 2017, 125 reviews have been posted on Glassdoor by current and former employees of the contractor.

On March 6, 2017, Glassdoor was served with a subpoena ordering the company to provide identifying information about the reviewers, including emails, IP addresses, and billing information.

Glassdoor argued this request violated their user’s First Amendment rights, and the government agreed to limit the scope of its request to eight crucial reviews.

The government noted this information would aid the investigation, enabling them to contact the reviewers as third party witnesses to business practices related to the case. However, Glassdoor was still not cool with this, and filed a motion to suppress the subpoena.

The district court denied the motion, upholding their stance that since the investigation was not being conducted in bad faith, the company must respond under pain of contempt. Basically, Glassdoor is going to get charged $5000 a day until they comply.

Most of the argument stems from Supreme Court Case Branzburg v. Hayes, which stipulates that reporters generally cannot refuse to testify in a criminal grand jury. Branzburg v. Hayes combined three separate cases regarding journalists reporting illicit activity, but protecting their sources from identification.

Glassdoor argues since they are not a news organization, this case should not apply to their users. The court shot back that although Glassdoor isn’t technically in the news business, just like the reporters in Branzburg, the company publishes information from sources it agrees not to identify.

While Glassdoor’s commitment to protecting its users is noble, since review posters are notified before each posting their info may be shared, Glassdoor may not have the same grounds of arguing promised anonymity as the reporters in the Branzburg case. Plus, since the investigation is in good faith, the government contends that the company has no reason for resistance.

Glassdoor insists the court instead focus on the results of Bursey v. United States, a case regarding the First Amendment rights of groups considered subversive by the government. Bursey requires government investigations to satisfy a three-part “compelling interest” test to proceed.

The Court of Appeals argues that since Glassdoor users aren’t really a special community group, the precedent set in Branzburg about investigations in good faith more accurately applies to the current case.

Since the government is not investigating Glassdoor itself, but rather attempting to further the grand jury case with information from users, Glassdoor’s motion to quash the subpoena was denied.

The eight users whose reviews were flagged will likely have to testify in the case, and Glassdoor cannot further refuse to identify the reviewers.

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. DeeJayH

    November 15, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    “yeah whatever?” & “not cool with this?” until reading those I had no idea using GENIUS in your name was for comedic effect. #kudos. Can not believe that went right over my head

    • Lani Rosales

      November 15, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      From time to time, our writers slide in little jokes or silly notes – just making sure you’re all paying attention! 😉 #GoodEye

  2. Leslie

    December 22, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    The correct things to do for a website like Glassdoor is to not collect this information. Not having this information means the government cannot request it.
    A website like Startpage, for example, differentiates it from the Googles of this world in this manner.
    I do agree that the juvenile writing in this article makes me doubt whether the contents are serious.

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Business News

The best jobs in America, 2018 edition

(BUSINESS NEWS) Is your job on the list of the best jobs? Is this your year?

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Whether you love or hate your job, like any other human, you want to know how it ranks on the list of all occupations. And also like any other human, you know that the tech industry is going to dominate any ranked list of this nature.

And of course, you’re right.

Indeed’s 2018 list of The Best Jobs in the United States, the top 25 are mostly tech jobs.

The jobs themselves range wildly in terms of salary, required education level, field, and availability, though all fall above the $75,000 per year mark. As is to be expected, a large number of the jobs in question are located in the tech field, though you might be surprised to see several other fields holding prominent spots as well.

One such field is construction, though there are a couple of caveats in the field’s growth itself. As job persuasions such as construction management and construction estimator make their way onto the list of the top 25 jobs of 2018, the respective hiring departments are forced to contend with decreasing searches for construction jobs as the year has progressed.

While the results should speak for themselves, it’s clear that anyone looking to hire in the construction field will have a bit of pandering on their hands.

Tech jobs such as full stack developer and computer vision engineer are still at the top of the list – a position which hasn’t changed much from last year – and the actual number one spot, while not quite as tech-oriented as past years, is commercial project manager.

Indeed notes that the position of the role of machine learning engineer is especially surprising (spot number 4) given its number 17 spot on last year’s list.

Naturally, the rise in self-driving technology and the interest in AI has most likely influenced the sudden jump this year; if you’re someone with the proper education and skills in the machine learning department, this should be your year.

A couple of outliers on the list include plumbing engineer (spot number 14), registered nurse in the infusion field (spot number 24), and optometrist (spot number 7). As Indeed points out, healthcare roles in 2018 have made an unexpected appearance on this list; naturally, such positions fall on the “more education” side of the spectrum, but their involvement makes for a nice contrast with the normal tech backdrop.

The full top 25 list:

  1. Commercial project manager
  2. Full stack developer
  3. Computer vision engineer
  4. Machine learning engineer
  5. Preconstruction manager
  6. Construction superintendent
  7. Optometrist
  8. Data scientist
  9. Chief estimator
  10. Development operations engineer
  11. Agile coach
  12. Construction estimator
  13. Senior talent acquisition manager
  14. Plumbing engineer
  15. Project superintendent
  16. Staff pharmacist
  17. Head of sales
  18. Commercial real estate agent
  19. Construction manager
  20. Project architect
  21. Product owner
  22. Senior clinical specialist
  23. UX researcher
  24. Registered nurse – infusion
  25. Partnership manager

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Business News

How the Lean concept can have the biggest impact on your bottom line

(BUSINESS) Using the Lean business concept and asking the non-sexy question of “What’s dumb around here?” your business will outpace your competitors in no time.

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Entrepreneurs love solving problems. That’s what they’re good at doing. In fact, the more complex, difficult and messy the problem, the more the entrepreneur will enjoy the challenge. Entrepreneurs are especially good at solving problems that nobody knew were there. Think about Steve Jobs: He knew that we needed a pocket MP3 player before we even knew what it was.

While entrepreneurs are coming up with the next “big” thing, we need the non-entrepreneurs in our organizations focused on solving the small problems in our company with the same enthusiasm. Imagine if every one of your team members were consistently looking for opportunities to improve your systems, processes and service delivery. Those subtle changes made in the non-sexy parts of the business usually have the biggest impact on the bottom line.

This is a business concept called Lean, in which a company changes their processes to create the most benefit to the customer using the least amount of resources possible. Lean is commonly used in the manufacturing industry, but its principles can be used in any business to change the way of thinking and doing things.

I recently witnessed a great example of how Lean principles were used to improve one of my clients, LuminUltra – a leading provider of microbiological testing hardware, software and services. The company serves industries that need to know quickly and accurately what’s living in their water. At a recent quarterly planning session at the LuminUltra offices in Fredericton, Canada, COO Charlie Younger shared a powerful story about the company’s manufacturing facility and challenging the status quo.

During the expansion of the company’s manufacturing facility, one of the team members was lamenting to Charlie about how much time it took to complete a lengthy step of the manufacturing process – one specific quality check that was very time-consuming. He remarked that in the history of the company they never had a single machine fail the test. Charlie’s first thought was, do they even need to perform this specific test again?

After more discussion with colleagues, the team realized that the other quality checks performed earlier in the manufacturing process would always identify a defective unit. With this knowledge, the manufacturing team asked for permission to perform minimal testing to still provide assurance with less work. When presented with the information, the company leadership agreed that it was a great idea and would save time and money as well as improve the employee experience. But the bigger question was: Why hadn’t anyone ever questioned this lengthy step of the manufacturing process before?

Charlie, having run Lean programs in the past, has seen this issue before: People continue to do what they’ve always done even if they think there is a better way. He thought this would be a great opportunity to use a fun, simple but elegant technique to capture other status quo breakers – in other words, he decided to use the same principles for changing the company’s production process to make other company decisions.

With that, he posted a whiteboard in the manufacturing room with the title “What’s Dumb Around Here?” and encouraged team members to capture possible “dumb things” to add to it. These topics are discussed and vetted during their Lean process meetings to determine if they can be improved.

When I discussed the new process with Charlie, he noted, “First, you have to create an environment where people are willing to question the status quo. We have always been highly focused on quality and accuracy, so the team thought it was outrageous to openly question a quality check we had been performing for years.”

He continued, “You have to help your management team be open to receiving ideas that might seem crazy and not overreact to the suggestions. Instead, simply ask them to explain their logic. More often than not, the front line knows a better way to do things but does not know how to navigate the change. The beauty of using Lean techniques is that you now have an easy navigation path to discuss, approve and roll out changes. Suddenly, you have an energized front line solving problems with minimal involvement from management – how great is that?”

While LuminUltra continues to grow their product line and expand into new markets, it expects that its implementation of Lean principles will help it make subtle but important modifications to processes that will positively affect its bottom line. The CEO, Pat Whalen, remarked, “If we can produce our products faster and more cost effectively and get them into the hands of our customers faster, we can have an even bigger impact on the water sector with our microbiological monitoring products. I need all of our team members thinking how we can improve every single day. The water sector needs us.”

Every visionary, big-thinking entrepreneur needs a team that challenges the status quo. How are you encouraging your team members to identify, “What’s Dumb Around Here?”

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Business News

Verb develops your team’s talent while making a major social impact

(BUSINESS NEWS) Any sized team can improve their talent, but add in a dash of social good, and Verb has the platform to rule them all.

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More organizations are looking to offer training opportunities for their employees (but with an emphasis on more efficiency, cost effectiveness, and impact than traditional classroom instruction) – and there are a number of solutions. Organizations can seek to leverage those same on-demand resources that consumers are using (Like Lynda.com) or using their own internal corporate learning solutions to host content (like Cornerstone On-Demand, Accord, or other LMS (that’s uh – Learning Management System, non-talent TD folks)) providers, and hope by doing so they develop employees and solve the variety of skill gaps that are emerging for a millennial and post-millennial workforce.

Verb seeks to offer a flexible learning solution that also solves a secondary challenge: getting employees to be more engaged with work.

The product offers subscription style learning, offering focusing on the core skills like communication and leadership skills. Specific skill development is bestowed upon employees through four types of learning elements: articles, activities, courses, and impact programs. This suggests that the learning is focused not only on content and theoretical learning, but also activity based and impact styles of learning to help employees transfer those skills into the workplace.

The standout of this learning solutions it that it seeks to drive in something that a lot of young professions seek – purpose.

Verb connects with social impact organizations to facilitate learning opportunities and promote development. A great example from their blog is a Summer partnership with United Way for Greater Austin (check it out) where they conducted a five-week leadership program that taught local nonprofit professionals how to communicate their organizational strategy and mission more effectively with pitch decks.

Adding in purpose is an emphasis on mentoring, where social entrepreneurs can become impact partners and connect with brands to help improve their visibility, awareness, and credibility.

Social entrepreneurs have a real opportunity to generate their visibility and gain more attention, companies like Sproutel (which have this awesome story about Jerry the Bear – you’re gonna cry if you watch it!) or TOMS both have gained some attention via Verb.

The benefits here are pretty clear – organizations can get a learning solution that helps them develop their employees more effectively and can collect learning metrics that help justify their expense and demonstrate impact.

The most highly regarded quality is mentoring opportunities created to connect them with social impact organizations – and those social entrepreneurs benefit from their visibility. From a learning professional – the opportunity to have experience learning, mentoring, and an engagement opportunity seems like a rare bundle – and one that can be particularly valuable for large and small organizations.

Talent development is a significant investment, and Verb looks like a pretty awesome solution that can nestle in beside other talent development strategies.

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