LinkedIn lawsuit exposes amateur moves of 'professional' network

LinkedIn denies hacking users' email accounts, as claimed in class-action suit, but its current policies aren't above reproach

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3. The process is actually much sneakier. LinkedIn doesn't send your contacts an email saying, "Joe Blow just gave us your email address and now we're pestering you to sign up." It sends an email asking your friends to "Confirm that you know Joe." And if you ignore it, LinkedIn sends it two more times.

On the next screen your friends are prompted to enter a password and click a button to "Join Joe's Network." They're now members of LinkedIn, even if they didn't realize they were signing up and even if they bail out without adding more info to their profiles. This is how 12-year-olds end up with ghost LinkedIn accounts they didn't intend to create.

Of course, your friends will be prompted to upload their address books, then their friends, and so on, ad nauseam. This is how LinkedIn ended up with more than 230 million accounts and a soaring stock valuation.

Sleazy riders

Is any of this illegal? Probably not. Sleazy? Definitely, yes. And the ooze doesn't stop there.

LinkedIn endorsements are a running joke. You can endorse anyone in your network for almost any skill, regardless of whether they actually possess that skill or you know anything about it. I can't imagine a single recruiter who takes them seriously. It's just an excuse to get more people to log in to LinkedIn more often. Yet there's no way to shut them off.

As I've noted here in the past, LinkedIn's People You May Know feature does some disturbing behind-the-scenes data mining to determine connections between people, many of them total strangers. I've had far too many tenuous connections to people who suddenly show up in my PMYK list days after I sent them an email. I know I'm not alone in this.

And the "six people recently looked at your LinkedIn profile, but we're only going to show you three of them unless you pony up $25 a month" feature is as creepy as it gets.

Frankly, I doubt that lawsuit has legs. But if it forces LinkedIn to clean up its act a little bit, then more power to them.

If LinkedIn wants to be the serious social network it claims to be, it needs to stop pestering people to upload their address books. It needs to let you turn off features that annoy you. It needs to be a lot more transparent about how it connects the dots between people. It needs to stop acting like a creepy spammer.

If you're going to be the network for business professionals, then you should probably act like one.

Have you ever felt spammed or creeped out by LinkedIn? Spill the beans below or email me:

This article, "LinkedIn lawsuit exposes amateur moves of 'professional' network," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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