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JobJacking VI

(October 26, 2006) Barry Berg, the Chief Architect at Arbita , sent us a nice note about job jacking. We're reprinting it here with permission. It contains good explanations and technical instructions for preventing Job Jacking.

John Sumser has added a new word to the Internet Lexicon, "Job Jacking" in one of his latest posts on his HR news board ERN, Job Jacking, Job Jacking II and Job Jacking III.  Like the term cyber squatting,  job jacking describes a type of bad netiquette nicely, but in doing so covers up what it actually is.  In no uncertain terms Job Jacking is THEFT. 

What's the problem? You say, after all my job being posted to the widest possible audience for free will help me fill that job right?   Robert Heinlein in his novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress coined a term, that has proven to be almost a self-evident truth.   "TAANSTAFL There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch," is as true today as in the 60's when it was coined.  Your company no doubt has policies and procedures in using your Corporate Logo.   Normally the policies proscribe where and when the logo can be used, what size shape, colors must be used etc.   That is because the Logo represents your company wherever it is seen, and your corporation's reputation, and image is reflected wherever it is viewed, that includes links back to your corporate careers, or jobs pages where you list positions open for candidates.  

So, what they are stealing from you is your ability to protect and project your corporate image.

Like everything else, there are reputable people, who will pick reputable advertisers and those that don't.   Since the job jackers didn't ask your permission you have no say in who they associate your corporate web site with.  Remember TANSTAFL?  It costs money to have a presence on the Internet, and these job jackers are no different.  Let's face it, many list your jobs so they can drive traffic to their sites, where they can sell advertising space, and thereby get revenue from advertisers.   Many of these Job Jacking Boards do not have a legitimate sales force, and so post direct links to your job site on their web pages.  It is a known fact, best moneymakers on the internet, and therefore the best paying advertisers include such sites as porn sites, and sites that specialize in the distribution of pirated music and software.  If the Job Jackers determine they need to raise more capital, they can and will bring in the more profitable advertisers.  After all they owe you no loyalty, they owe loyalty to the advertisers who pay them.  What does this say about the applicants they send to your sites.   Will they be a future liability to your corporation?

So how can I keep these sites from indexing my corporate site.   This will entail close cooperation with your IT department, or your Web Site Maintainer.   First contact them and let them know there is a concern.   Perhaps they have limited the Job Jackers from purloining your intellectual material already.   However, if they don't see it as a concern, they may not follow the rather simple steps to protect your corporation.

Before we get into the how to stop the Job Jackers, let's talk a bit about the technology.  In the early 90's when the internet was referred to as the web, short for World Wide Web (this is where the www comes from), and the first of many search engines were just starting to index the web, a piece of software that traversed web pages following hyperlinks to other web pages was call a "spider."   Later as more intelligence, was built into them, to make them more efficient crawlers of the internet, they were also called "Robots", or just "bots" reflecting the mindless intelligence of them.  In fact, this is the basis of all the search engines, currently roaming the internet today, and the birthplace of the large search engines like Google, Yahoo, and more.  As the use of bots grew a side effect was that they would consume the servers, using up resources just following the page links.  In 1994 a consensus was reached on how to limit robots free roaming of a web site.   Banning all web indexing isn't a solution either, because search engines can drive customers to your corporate site which is a good thing.   However there is a provision in the technology to allow bots to index some pages of your site, and stop them from indexing other pages.

The key to limiting the bots on your site is a file called ROBOTS.TXT which contains specific instructions on what web pages might be indexed, and which ones are prohibited.   This simple text file should sit at the document root of your website, the same place as the index/home page of your site resides.  A general explanation of the robots.txt file, a starting point to aim your IT Department to is The Web Robot Pages and also SearchTools.com  has some good information as well.   The FAQ pages on the above site might be a useful read for the HR Professional to ease the discussion with IT.  

Perhaps a first step is to determine if your site is being scanned.   There are two ways to determine this. Review the Logs from your website, seeing if the robots.txt file has been accessed and by whom.  This should be a regular analysis, and your IT department should be able to put together a small tool that would analyze and report suspected web crawler activity in the precise areas you are concerned with.  You might want to do a periodic web search using the specifics of some of the jobs you have posted, and see if they are being posted to sites other than those you have selected.   This also has the side benefit of giving you a clue as to how much competition you face for filling those key positions in the marketplace.

In addition to the robots.txt file, each page on your website should include a META tag as well.  This is a directive in the HTML language used to create web pages that directs robots what they can index and what they can not, on a page by page basis.   This is useful if some other site references a specific page on your site and a bot might follow that link from their site to yours without going through your home page.  A sample META tag is shown below:



<TITLE>Administrative Assistant - ABC, Inc. - Burbank, CA</TITLE>

<META name="description" content="This job posting is copyright 2006, ABC, Inc all rights reserved.  Permission to use this job posting and/or to link to it must be secured in writing.  contact HR@ABC.com to obtain permission">

<META name="owner" content="HR@ABC.com">

<META http-equiv="expires" content="Never">

<META http-equiv="charset" content="ISO-8859-1">

<META http-equiv="content-language" content="English">

<META http-equiv="vw96.object type" content="Document">

<META name="rating" content="General">

<META name="mssmarttagspreventparsing" content="true">

<META name="ROBOTS" content="noindex,nofollow">

<META name="REVISIT-AFTER" content="7 days">


There are free tools that can generate these META tags to be inserted in your web pages at 1-hit.com, Vancover Webpages, and WebYield.net.  However, if that is all there was to it, life would be very simple.   As I have mentioned there are bots run by reputable firms, and those run by the disreputable.   These latter folks, will use the robots.txt file to explicitly search the prohibited pages, mostly looking for email addresses to scavenge, or login pages to break into.   Well what can your company do about them, well not much, pirates do not follow rules, laws, or civil behavior norm, that's why they are called pirates, but there are some additional steps you can take.

There is a free program called RobotCop catches bots reading your robots.txt file and accessing the pages prohibited, and then blocks that site from accessing yours.   The downside of the software is that it is available in executable form on the Linux and FreeBSD Operating systems.   However, it is available in source code, as a free download, so perhaps your IT department can compile a version for your web server.  If RobotCop is not an answer, other things can be done.   For example, creating a sub-directory that is,  by configuring your web server, un-listable.  Assuming you don't have a hyperlink in the any of your documents, or on anyone else's site that points directly to that page, it should be invisible to the crawlers.   However, to make this work you will need a programmatic link to the page rather than a simple hyperlink.  

Assuming you have followed all the technical steps and guidance by your IT Department, to no avail, then there are other actions you may take besides the nuclear one, which is involves the Legal Department.  This may sound extreme, and it is at least drastic, but you wouldn't hesitate to defend your Registered Trademark against a violator, would you?  Basically your defense is that they are violating your intellectual property without your permission.   Remember that sample META tag appearing above?  Buried in it, so that it won't display visibly on your posting is a copyright notice (please note I am not a lawyer, I do not give legal advice. So don't use my text, it was provided merely to illustrate this point)  having the Legal Department craft the language should establish copyright violation and theft of intellectual property.  This should give your Company grounds under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) which amended 17 USC.  Before this you could pay them not to index your jobs, but as you see the options get a little ridicules after the technical solutions are exhausted.  

We at Arbita, Inc.  are working on some better solutions, but they are still on the drawing boards, and not ready for discussion.  Until then, your IT Department, has the expertise to guide you in making your web site and job postings friendly to applicants and search engines you invite in and will keep the barbarians outside the gate.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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