How a company changed my personal history on Facebook without me knowing

How could your personal history in your Facebook profile be changed by a company without you knowing?

Having just had my past ‘rebranded’ until I spotted it,there have been lessons for me and potentially for other occasional users of Facebook who don’t realise the potential significance of every small keystroke they make.

From 1972 to 2003 I worked at Independent Television News (ITN).I started as a news scriptwriter and ended up as Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief.

I am an irregular user of Facebook but last month I noticed that a former colleague who I knew to be still working at ITN was,according to her Facebook page, now working for something called ODN.

I found there were a number of ODNs in the world but one was a new brand used by ITN.In an email exchange with the company’s executives they explained to me that although the company is still called ITN and uses that brand for the services it provides to companies such as ‘ITV News’ and archive clips,its online news services direct to consumers were being re-branded ODN-On Demand News.So for example itn.co.uk had become odn.co.uk.

For those of us who remain proud to have worked for ITN this is a controversial decision but one which the company is free to make.

Then I was alerted to the fact that on my own Facebook page ‘Worked at ITN’ had been replaced by ‘Worked at ODN’.

The same had happened to other past and present ITN staff and I suspected that in the company’s enthusiasm to replace their old online brand with their new one they had somehow also changed our life stories.And that has turned out to be the case.

One helpful person who saw a tweet I sent out (see the associated comment from Matt)  explained that when I originally put the letters ITN in my Facebook page this automatically linked my page to the ITN Facebook page .When ITN changed their Facebook page to ODN this automatically rebranded me and anybody else who had consciously or unconsciously ever linked their profile to the ITN Facebook page.

Which then got me thinking why ITN had changed their corporate Facebook page to ODN in the first place. It not only had the unintended ,rather Orwellian, consequence of changing people’s life stories but overnight 61,432 people who liked ITN now liked ODN -a brand which I wager the vast majority of them had never heard of.

ITN now tell me that the change in users’ Facebook profile settings was unforeseen and they have taken steps to address this. They have also taken two other steps.They are creating a new corporate ITN Facebook page, which users can link to instead, which will promote all their  brands and businesses. And itn.co.uk will be resurrected as a site which will direct users to all the different elements of the company.

If this is indeed the outcome I will consider it an excellent day’s work .

So lesson learned,if you type the name of a company into your personal profile and that connects to their Facebook page,whatever they call their page in future will automatically come up in your profile.Somebody tweeted me to say they’d had a similar experience with a previous employer on their LinkedIn page but my life story on LinkedIn seems unaffected.

But there is one fascinating loose end.Somebody tweeted me to say that he agreed with my opening proposition that a commercial company could change your profile without you knowing.He told me that he had worked for a giant multinational and had ‘listed my former jobtitle (appropriately) as Obergruppenfuhrer & was all deleted’.How strange.

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “How a company changed my personal history on Facebook without me knowing

  1. I Imagine you set Facebook as ITN, then Facebook associated it with the ITN Facebook Page, then ITN changed the Facebook page to ODN and then that automatically ‘updated’ any connected ITN references to ODN.

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