An open letter to LinkedIn

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Dear LinkedIn

 

 

I get it. I really do. You’re trying to be helpful. I mean it really is a huge effort for me to type in contacts who I’d like to add, to keystroke by heavy keystroke search for the people that I’d like to be in my network. It’s super helpful of you to go through my emails to find people that I’ve been in contact with, and suggest that I ‘connect’ with them. Except that, the thing is, I’d really rather you didn’t. Because, in all honesty and in the spirit of helpfulness I thought I’d let you know that it’s a little bit creepy.

 

It turns out that I am not alone in feeling this. A cursory google search of the phrase ‘LinkedIn creepy’ brings up 42,000 results. Mainly of people who like myself, are feeling rather perturbed by your flagrant disregard to user privacy. In fact, if you do this search yourself, you may come across several posts with titles such as ‘LinkedIn- the creepiest social network’ and ‘The 11 creepiest things about LinkedIn’. So it would seem that I am not actually just one little weirdo with a laptop, tin hat and an unhealthy obsession with keeping my emails private, but one of many. And when there are many, there becomes a movement. Or a class action suit. Maybe. 

 

The concept of LinkedIn is a brilliant one, and one that has got many people jobs. This is Good Thing. I’m not sure that many people would deny that. However, like my tin hatted friends, I am very nervous to use it, as I just don’t trust it. When I signed up, I quite specifically denied permission to access my emails and other social media accounts. Yet, every time I log on, there lurking suspiciously at the side of my screen are people who you think I should ‘connect’ to. These include: the grandparent of a child I used to babysit (10 YEARS AGO), my coach’s wife, my cousin, someone I bought a dining table from on gumtree and my waxer. Of all of these, I had only emailed one. The rest of them, I either knew through day to day life, twitter and through a local forum. Additionally, not a single one of them have anything to do with my professional life, so would be fairly rubbish connections career wise. 

 

When a company’s users lose faith, they start to leave and go to their competitors. It’s starting to happen with facebook, and it will happen to you unless you start being a bit more open about what on earth is happening to our data over there in LinkedIn towers. At the moment, you’re in a pretty unique position of not having that many competitors who are making that many waves, but pretty soon, when one comes along with its white hat and transparent privacy policy your users will jump ship. 

 

It’s not just the unwanted access to personal and private emails and social media accounts that is worrying. There’s the potential for stalking. Not just the supposedly harmless, browsing the profile of someone you dated once kind of stalking. The full on, obsessive, terrifying and life threatening kind. Because the only way you can block someone on your site is through a court order. Or at least that’s what you said when one user came to you when her former boss was contacting her 100 times a day. Every day. And when that same person wanted to speak with you, you cancelled a phone meeting with her 11 times. For a company that exists to connect professionals, it doesn’t seem like very professional behaviour. 

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(Image via buzzfeed)

 

Of course there was also the time when six million passwords to your site got leaked. Bit creepy. And then there’s the fact that you automatically share user’s data to third parties, without asking for permission. Creepier still. And also, that many young women find themselves targeted by older guys, sending sexual messages (many of whose ‘also viewed’ page shows a whole list of young attractive women, who may have also come into their firing line) MEGA CREEPY. None of this makes me want to be a part of this business, and I’m pretty sure that a lot of other people are feeling the same way.

 

So what can you do? Well, for starters and for safety, please enable a block feature. If a user is being harassed by unwanted messages, please don’t force them to go to court for a restraining order, let them block the sender. Second, please be more open about exactly how you suggest ‘people you may know’. The stock response from the ‘trust and safety team’ is that it’s just through shared contacts and commonalities, but that cannot possibly be true. So please tell us how you are doing it, and how we, as users can stop it. And please, stop asking me to connect with my former waxer, because actually i’ve found a new one. But then again, you probably already knew that.

 

All the best,

 

Ro

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