LinkedIn: The Creepiest Social Network

By David Veldt - 05/09/2013

This is a post I've been wanting to write for a while. In fact, it stems from something I noticed way back in August of last year. After digging for answers and even a couple attempts at contacting their customer support, I've concluded that LinkedIn is by far the creepiest social network. The primary reasons LinkedIn is the mustached, trench coat and wire frame glasses wearing mouth breather of the internet are the "People You May Know" and "People Also Viewed" features.

Let's begin with the "People You May Know" feature. Every time I sign in, I'm startled by one of the names they suggest. My reactions range from "How did you know I know them?" to "There's no way you should know I know them" to "Ok, I don't know that person, but they have the same name as someone I do know, and you shouldn't even know that."

Let's begin by showing some examples of the names that have popped up under the "People You May Know" sidebar widget (the names have been changed to protect the "people I may know"), along with a brief description of their association with me:


Steve JacobsSteve happens to be my fiancée's stepfather. Steve has a total of 6 connections, none of which are 2nd or 3rd degree connections with any of mine, he lives an hour away from me and is in a completely different industry. I'm not even friends with my fiancée on Facebook...


StephanieThis is a cousin of mine. However, she has only one connection on LinkedIn. So just because we share a last name, we might know each other? Lucky guess, LinkedIn.


heatherHeather happens to be a girl I dated way back in high school. Cute, right? We're friends on Facebook but that's pretty much the extent of it. The only problem is, this person is the wrong Heather. This Heather has a different profession and lives on the other side of the country. She has barely any connections and no discernible link to me other than the name she shares with someone I do know.


LucyThis is the maiden name of my aunt who was married into the family years ago. However, my aunt of course has a different name now, isn't on LinkedIn, and isn't a CPA. I'm pretty perplexed on this one. This person lives across the country and has zero connections.


At this point I think I have a theory on what's going on here. Even though I have no shared connections, school, company, or industry, LinkedIn is using the search and viewing history of other people to make assumptions on who I may know. In other words, if someone searched for both of us, we might know each other.

Makes sense, right?

Enter Herman & Doug

A couple more "People I May Know" included Herman and Doug. Herman follows me on Twitter, but happens to live in the Netherlands. We've never had any other association. Doug lives in New York and contacted me through my personal site a year ago. We exchanged a couple emails and that was it. We share no groups, no connections or anything else.

Okay, so maybe they are getting Twitter data somehow? How they knew about the guy I emailed, I still have no idea...

But wait, according to LinkedIn's Help Center on the People You May Know feature, these suggestions are based on just 2 factors (straight from the Help Center page):

  • Commonalities between you and other members. For example, you may have common connections, similar profile information and experiences, work at the same company or in the same industry, or attended the same school.
  • Members you’ve imported from other address books in your Contacts list.

I don't currently and haven't previously used the Imported Contact feature and as described above, several of these suggestions share no clear link to me in the online world---connections, experiences, companies, industries and school included.

Also, nowhere does it mention Twitter or Facebook data, so those theories are out. However, after perusing my LinkedIn settings, I found three different areas where Privacy Controls are listed. If you go to your Settings page and click on Profile, you will see privacy controls for a variety of profile related issues. If you click on the Account tab, you can adjust privacy controls for advertising. However, I hadn't noticed (mainly because I didn't think to look for privacy controls in more than one place) the privacy options under the Groups, Companies & Applications tab.

There, I found two more controls that were pre-selected:

LinkedIn Privacy

LinkedIn Privacy Controls

Okay, so LinkedIn had been sharing my data with third party applications and plugins. So, maybe they are using something like Facebook to influence these suggestions? Well, not necessarily. First, they didn't list it as a source for feeding the People You May Know feature, and second, they told me so in this reply to one of my multiple inquiries to customer support on the matter:

LinkedIn Customer Support

Well, that didn't accomplish much. This person just reiterated what the Help Center page said. Also on a side note: The fact that they have a "Trust & Safety" team actually makes me feel more uncomfortable.

Either way, I unchecked the new-found privacy controls under Groups, Companies & Applications, only to find that a day later, LinkedIn suggested:

TamiTami has a total of 5 connections, lives in Seattle, no public company or title listed, but we just happened to exchange a few emails a couple days prior regarding some questions I had about software her company sold.

Last Ditch Effort

A final thought I had was that maybe I was missing a setting within these other applications such as Facebook, allowing them to share my information with partner sites. Upon checking my Facebook controls, I found the following personalization setting:

Facebook Instant Personalization...but LinkedIn isn't one of their partner websites. On another note, it seems that Facebook in sensitive about this topic, as I received this prompt when I disabled instant personalization:

Facebook Instant Personalization Rumor Prompt

I still believe that LinkedIn is using the search history of others to suggest "people I may know" to me, which sort of make sense. However, I am still stumped on how they came up with some of these names. I voiced my concerns to their customer support--ahem---their "Trust & Safety" team, and received only canned responses. If you have any more insight on this, I would love to hear it.

People Also Viewed... Young, Attractive Women

Okay, to close this creepiness out, we're going to play a game. This game requires you to be a bit of a creep yourself for a moment, so if you're uncomfortable with that, feel free to bow out now, we won't make fun of you.

You see, LinkedIn as a company isn't the only thing creepy about LinkedIn. In fact, it has a pretty creepy user base as well. I can prove it, too. (Note: I imagine no one has pointed this out because they don't want to look like a creep themselves by broaching the subject. I suppose I'll take one for the team)

The game is simple. Go through your connections and pick out the profile of someone who happens to be, in your opinion, um...a young, attractive female. Try not to feel creepy yet, this is for science.

On their profile page, take notice of the "People Also Viewed" list in the sidebar. What kind of faces do you see? Chances are, they are of more, erm, young and attractive females. If you're a real science fanatic, click through to one of these profiles, then do it again on that profile. Within a couple clicks, you will likely be on the profile of a "model" from across the country.

In other words, "People Also Viewed" creates a public graph of creepy men's browsing habits at work.

--------

Thus concludes my venture into the deep, uncomfortable underbelly of social networking for professionals. LinkedIn has slipped under the radar when it comes to privacy controls and transparency, which I believe is unacceptable. Everyone points to Google, Apple and Facebook and pretty much stops there.

I've also always been frustrated with LinkedIn's controls, constantly finding more boxes I need to uncheck to stop receiving notifications.

LinkedIn has experienced substantial growth in recent years, but they seem to be overstepping their bounds in certain areas. They should also keep a close eye on their users---because no one wants another Chatroulette-style takeover...

Lastly, my sincere apologies if a mustache, trench coat and wire frame glasses happen to be your look.

Creepy featured image from Jon Lajoie

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Sean Mackrory

11 years ago

You toss out the theory of the email contacts feature because you haven't used it. It's possible the other people *had* used this feature, and as soon as you used your email address to register, LinkedIn knew who you knew (though this doesn't explain some of the same-name-different-person connections). I was creeped out for the same reason years ago, and this was the only explanation I could come up with for some of the suggestions: people who had emailed me once, years ago, and probably uploaded their address book to LinkedIn.

David Veldt

11 years ago

Interesting thought, Sean. I hadn't thought of other people using the Import Contacts feature. Although, in the last example I gave (who I named Tami Franks), I received that suggestion just a day or two after our email exchange. So she would have had a short window to use that feature.

Again, as you mentioned, even if that were the case, it doesn't explain some of the other examples. Also, they cite "Members you’ve imported from other address books in your Contacts list" as a source for feeding those suggestions, which doesn't mention people importing you. If they were using other members' imports as a source, I would hope that they would mention it.

N

11 years ago

David I believe Sean's theory is correct based on my own experience. I received suggestions for three connections who I had emailed but never otherwise interacted with (an ebuy exchange, a counselor and a sports massage therapist).

Jochem

11 years ago

Yes, I'm fairly sure a big part is other users who've imported their contacts. You don't even need direct e-mail contact with certain people, as LinkedIn probably assumes that the more of your contacts know a third person, the more you're likely to know that person as well. Combine this with other factors and at some point the third person will be likely enough to be suggested to you.

I'm pretty sure that LinkedIn assigns weighted scores to profiles and based on that suggests those profiles to you. This is similar how search engines and other suggestion tools (movie sites, etc) come up with suggestions. Along with the two mentioned sources (commonalities and contact uploads), I'm pretty sure they use much more indirect sources. For instance, when a person is suggested to you and you ignore that suggestion, LinkedIn might take that as a sign that you actually don't know that person (or do not want to him or her on LinkedIn) and lower the score for the next time you check the suggestions.

Your search queries are probably also logged and used to determine what groups of people have your interest (what industry, where they are, etc) and assign higher weights to people in one of those groups.

So not only direct information like imported contacts, but even the usage behaviour of all users will eventually determine what LinkedIn suggests. This becomes pretty creepy as LinkedIn will be able to make connections you totally forgot about.

An example: I had a spur of suggestions of high school classmates a while back. I assume that something triggered a couple of suggestions for one of my old classmates which then caused a ripple effect through all those profiles of old classmates (as they started to look each other up or ignoring or whatever). Maybe the trigger was a simple search or possibly a contact upload (I doubt the latter, e-mail wasn't widely used at that time).

On a side note (to end this long comment ;)): LinkedIn would be stupid not to use all their logged data to create these creepy connections. The power of any social network is that it has enough active users. The better your network, the more likely you're going to stay active (as that good network can be of value to you). So it's in the interest of LinkedIn to make very good suggestions and try to really drill down to every last person you know, without flooding you with people you don't know.

J.M.

11 years ago

When you use the import contacts feature and connect your email account to linked in, it is connected forevermore ... so if they used it in the past, linkedin will keep scanning and have access to their more recent communications.

David Veldt

11 years ago

So you can never *stop* access to your contact list? When I go to the Import Contact feature, they have a Learn More link that only says:

"This feature uploads your address book to LinkedIn's servers including detailed contact information for all your contacts. We'll use this information to suggest relevant connections for you and also to help you browse, search, and organize your contacts on LInkedIn. We will not invite or email any of your contacts without your permission."

Kyle

11 years ago

If you imported your contacts via GMail, you have to disable this access in Google.

1) Go to accounts.google.com.
2) Sign in.
3) Go to the Security menu.
4) Go to the "Connected applications and sites" subsection and hit the "Manage Access" button.
5) You can then "Revoke Access" to LinkedIn and any other site you've given permission to use your Google info (mostly Google's OpenID protocol.)

RL

10 years ago

I was wondering about this today. Old co-workers who I don't care to stay in touch with keep popping up and I'm wondering if they're looking at my account. I tried to Revoke Access but the only thing I can't revoke is my Android Access. I hit revoke and I was logged out of my account on my Samsung. Everything is so connected. Annoying!!!

greg

9 years ago

A big part of the problem is Google (and possibly microsoft as well) which is cooperating with linkedin to get access to all your personal data.

The fact that LinkedIn's offices in Mountain View are right next to google's headquarters is more than just a coincidence. Google is forwarding your search queries to Linkedin. If you happen to search for a person that exists on linked in, guess what: That person will automatically get a "You may know this person" entry in their account with YOUR name on it, if you happen to have an Linkedin account.

Mind you, this information is NOT gathered using browser cookies which you can erase. As disturbing as it seems, Google is using your IP address to identify you and forwarding your name to linkedin as the alleged searcher. In other words, you are NOT safe by doing any of the following:

(1) Logging out of Linkedin
(2) Logging out of your Gmail account or
(3) Erasing your browser cookies

What is worse is google keeps track of what you have searched for in the past and will use this to notify Linkedin of whom you have searched for once you have opened a new Linkedin account.
...A total breach of trust by google.

-Disappointed

John

11 years ago

It's also possible that they're using a plugin for their email like Rapportive. It would make an API call looking for your info using their credentials and that's all LinkedIn would need to make the association.

David Veldt

11 years ago

That's an excellent point and one I haven't considered yet, thanks!

Mike Potter

11 years ago

LinkedIn owns Rapportive - bets are good they're using that access to suggest names.
http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/22/rapportive-linkedin-acquisition/

Mike

Seth

11 years ago

It is fairly common for people using a CRM to have it using LinkedIn to find prospects by using their email name and phone number, thus giving LinkedIn the que you know each other.

The other possibility is Outlook plugins like Xobni that directly connect all emails to your LinkedIn account.

Adrian

11 years ago

This is how Facebook would make suggestions of people you know. They'd import their address book and NOT select you as a friend to add. So what does FB do? They show you that person to see if you'll friend them. It's devious but brilliant. LinkedIn is probably doing the same thing with the contact importer as the person suggested above about others importing their address books.

The last piece of the puzzle you're forgetting is that LinkedIn now owns Rapportive which means that they can see everyone you're emailing. And they own ConnectedHQ which has no where near the # of users of Rapportive, but nonetheless, it has an open connection to all your Gmail contacts potentially.

So, LinkedIn basically bought them to know everything about your social lives and it seems to be working.

Brandon

11 years ago

Could Tami have searched for you? Or used a Rapportive-like tool that auto-searches LI based on her email traffic?

Though these types of experiences are getting more sophisticated, it is often a simpler answer than our imagination dreams up...

Nando

11 years ago

I am certain that Linked in has access to our email accounts. There are people whom I know for sure have not searched for me or 'imported their contact lists' and neither have I searched for them or 'imported my contact list'. The only connection I have with this people is the emails that we send to each other. So the only way Linkedin can know that I might know those people is by going through my email account either directly or via google. I'm a very private person so I'm feeling very invaded by Linkedin and I'm glad to know there are other people out there who are also wondering how Linkedin knows.

pat

10 years ago

I have also had a long-standing suspicion that Linkedin is somehow monitoring our emails. Much as I hate to believe it, I don't know else how Linkedin could suggest someone who was on the CC list of several emails that went back and forth just a couple of days ago. This person has not even responded to any of the messages, so it's unlikely that he added me to his address book.

Arlenna

10 years ago

So, I have had even creepier experiences of this: The name and email address I give here are my blog pseudonym and its email account. My blog does not have any information about my real name or identity. My Linked In account is exclusively connected to my work email address and not any of my other email addresses (at least not knowingly or intentionally by me!). I get LinkedIn "suggestions" and contact requests from people who have only ever corresponded with me through my blog email account as Arlenna, and for whom there is no reason they should know my real name or where I work. Unless they went on a Google hunt and tracked me down somehow, which is not impossible. But it really seemed more like LinkedIn was trawling my inboxes, even for unrelated email accounts, and harvesting information that it then connected to my LinkedIn account somehow. I have never told it to import my contacts lists.

I just noticed there's another automatically checked setting: In that same groups/comapnies/information tab you mentioned, "Manage settings for LinkedIn plugins on third party sites" has the "Yes, allow LinkedIn to receive information about my visits to pages that use LinkedIn plugins" box checked. Maybe that's how it's gathering this information?

RonaldA

10 years ago

***Google is definitely sharing your search activity with Linkedin behind your back, and its not through cookies. This is of serious concern as there has been no disclosures of it. Even if you don't click on a search result your search query information still gets sent by Google to Linked In without your knowledge or consent...you only find out after you have been publicly exposed.

This certainly changes my view of Google and any future decision to use any of Google's services. Recently Google forced me to join google Circles to use one of their services...I am going to be withdrawing from that as well. Sometimes "Free" just isn't worth it.

**Note:** Of the people who have discovered this breach of privacy by Google and LinkedIn, I would be curious to find out which browser you are using? Google Chrome or something else?***

frankly

10 years ago

I use falsename@doimainIOwn.com to create all of my social accounts. each one is nothing like another, but all the emails fall in to the same inbox. thus, no once can search for me via my common email address.

I still get this stuff... I am getting bored and tired with behind-the-back social medial.

Lee Houghton

9 years ago

Is it possible that Tami Franks uses the LinkedIn app for Android? That would likely have access to contact data whenever it wants.

RobertH

8 years ago

I looked up a boss from hell from literally 20 years ago. I shouldn't have done it, but I couldn't resist. Then he started showing up as someone I might know.

Belinda

5 years ago

But why is a massage therapist I have never, ever sent or received an email to or from and only ever had phone calls with - over 8 years ago - coming up as a suggestion?

Drew

11 years ago

This was my first instinct too. Seems rather obvious, if someone has only exchanged emails, and emails are a 2 sided affair, that they did a contact import when they signed up.

Ruth Lever Kidson

11 years ago

The suggestion of the email contacts rings true to me, too. I was very spooked when I first joined LinkedIn and was confronted by a list of five people I 'might know'. I seem to remember that I knew all of them and couldn't think how LinkedIn could have known that without hacking into my email. But, of course, if these people had uploaded their email contacts, that could explain it. I have to admit that I always give the minimum of personal information on ANY social media site.

Sarah

10 years ago

I've just started using LinkedIn, and am definitely creeped out by its suggesting many people I know. It would have made sense if I'd signed up with my personal Gmail account; however, I used a brand new Gmail account that is only used for career stuff. Moreover, I have not given this address to anyone.

Any thoughts? Clearly LinkedIn is somehow accessing addressees from my other account.

Bar

9 years ago

Sean, David,
The email option indeed. That's what I have been hearing for the past year too!

When I started out with linkedin I did that too. Some time ago Linkedin offered the ability to somehow not get into your contact list (mine was a gmail account) (btw, I can't find that setting anymore)

I remember the creepy stuff stopped for a short while, but last year it returned. And I was informed by an online privacy guru that it might be new linkedin members sharing there contact lists with linkedin to get connected.

But even so, I still get creepy notifications from people I have never ever send an email, and I'm sure they don't have my adddress. And if they do have my private email address, I changed it all to a corporate mail address on linkedin, so it should't pop up. Right?

So my conclusions (not final) go into the direction of:
- Linkedin has stored my old mail addresses (even though I deleted them because of there digging in whenever they please)
- Linkedin logs what you do during browsing sessions. So whenever you are on Linkedin, they log activity on Facebook, Google/Gmail, Twitter and probably many more...
- Linkedin checks browsing history probably as well

And that's just for online/PC behavior. I am wondering what linkedin does while you use their app on your smartphone?

Donald

8 years ago

I agree with Sean. I had been using LinkedIn for quite some time without any creepy suggestions. Many months later, I installed the app on my Android phone, and shortly after that, all these people from the past started popping up. I went into the app and realized that there was "Sync Contacts" options. I unchecked it. Then I went to LinkedIn on my desktop, opened "Imported Contacts," and found all of my phone contacts there. I deleted them all. It seems to have solved the problem.

Mike

11 years ago

Along the lines of what Sean said, I think it's possible they said you might know so and so based on the fact those people probably had previously viewed your profile.

David Veldt

11 years ago

I do believe that part of what generates these suggestions is other people's viewing habits (although they don't mention it on the Help page describing how they generate them). However, I think it only makes sense if a third person searched for both myself and the person that was suggested to me. I don't see why someone who happens to share the same name as someone I do know and lives across the country would have been looking at my profile at some point.

Faramarz

11 years ago

It's exactly how Sean suggests. It doesn't matter if you haven't imported your contacts. It only takes the OTHER party to import you as part of their email contacts, and from then on, LinkedIn continuously looks for a connection. Be it IP geo locating, name matching, workplace, group, school and most obvious of all, email address match.

It's quite easy to be precise will all/some fo the attributes I mention above. Creep or cool?
I think there's more upside than not. You end up exposing yourself to acquaintances even if you we just part of their mailing list from 10 years ago, depending on your general relationship building habits, that's usually a good thing in a professional setting.

David Veldt

11 years ago

It's admittedly interesting all the ways they have figured out how to create associations (I could go on a major tangent into Google's Knowledge Graph or Facebook's Graph Search), I just wish they would be more transparent about it. My repeated attempts to contact them on what influences these suggestions and their very sparse Help page doesn't take it far enough.

LS

9 years ago

OK, I'm clearly joining this discussion a few years late, but how would you explain LinkedIn suggesting people I do know, have not emailed in over 10 years, who do not have a LinkedIn account? E.g.) a 1 week relationship from 2002... a guy I emailed 2x from a now defunct hotmail account from a Pentium3 ~6 computers ago? I have never granted access to my email list, and even if I had, this guy is not one of my contacts.

And he's not the only one...there are at least 8-10 'people I may know' who are not on linkedin, and I have the option of inviting them to join.

There's definitely something untoward happening

Jake Jacobs

9 years ago

If you look for my name near the bottom of these comments, dated Mar 21, 2015, you'll find some research I did.

LinkedIn doesn't ask permission, they just tell you, with no opt-out, that they will use your contacts. You have to really drill down through some "learn more" links to find where you give them permission to do this. No choice. If you are in LinkedIn, they grab your entire contacts list.

Somewhere in your contacts that Google builds off of emails you send is a reference to names and/or email addresses that in some obscure way link you to the people you're referring to.

If you completely delete every contact in your list, as I did during my research, you will find all these recommendations suddenly go away. There is absolutely no doubt of what they are doing. Google and LinkedIn are physical neighbors, and they are sharing information at levels that are unconscionable.

To this day I have never put any contacts back into my Google contacts list because of this. I have, however, discovered that if you move them all to "Other Contacts," and are diligent about remove any that Google moves to "My Contacts," then your concerns will go away. LinkedIn is not, so far, accessing "Other Contacts."

anon

11 years ago

1 way you are ignoring is that other person can also share info. about your connection, so you may not have uploaded your contact list, but Doug may have done so.

David Veldt

11 years ago

True, Sean Mackrory pointed that out as well. However, that still doesn't explain some of these and why they've left that out of their Help page describing where they pull these names from.

Michael Dubakov

11 years ago

>I’ve also always been frustrated with LinkedIn’s controls, constantly finding more boxes I need to uncheck to stop receiving notifications.

Ha! That is why I deleted my Linkedin account completely. This network is so fucked.

David Veldt

11 years ago

Yeah, they seem to be getting away with a lot while Facebook and Google take all the privacy heat. Their privacy controls and pretty much their whole settings setup are all over the place.

Irina

11 years ago

I'm on the brink of deleting mine --not only because I keep having to find "don't send me crap" settings all the time, but also because it keeps suggesting one of my worst enemies at the top of the "do you know" list, and there's no way to tell it "yes, I do know him and I never want to see his face again!" Don't need it for work, have other ways to keep in touch with people I really value.

Dan

10 years ago

I'd love it if Linked in allowed people to leave comments so you can say "I used to work with that person and I would never hire them because they are such an ass!!"

Anon

11 years ago

That was a creepy experiment at the end...it really provoked me to assess my creepiness level. I will be less creepy in the future.

You sir, are a warrior of the internet and I salute you.

David Veldt

11 years ago

haha I admit, I hesitated to publicly acknowledge that I noticed that theme in the sidebar...

Garrett

11 years ago

I too think Sean is on to something, and I also think what Mike said is correct. I mean, there's a lot of little details that go in to detecting those kind of interactions.

But I don't want that to cloud the real muckraking here, which really needs to be addressed. I hate hate hate those linkedin unsubscribe buttons. I mean, I really just hate linkedin, but they sure do a good job of making it difficult to clean out your inbox.

So, good work, and I hope this starts something.

David Veldt

11 years ago

Thanks! Yeah, the auto-subscribe boxes they have in place are pretty shady, especially as you join groups and are immediately opted in to receive constant updates. I also can't figure out how to prevent what I post in groups from being publicly displayed in the home page activity stream.

Pete

11 years ago

This has been playing on my mind for the last year or so, good to see someone else vocalize it! Everything in me wants to delete linkedin, but I can't help but feel like I need to be on there for business. Lucky linkedin I guess!

David Veldt

11 years ago

I suppose a business model tied to your professional success and appearance is a pretty advantageous one...

Female LinkedIn User

11 years ago

As a female on LinkedIn I'm frequently 'stalked'. Yeah, my ex-landlord who always hit on me started showing up. CREEP! I use a totally random email that no one but LinkedIn has. Those random people showing up on your profile, at least a certain percentage of them are people who have actually searched for you on the network and viewed your profile. I set up a user to test it out, making sure I viewed my real profile from a totally different IP. There was my creeper profile showing up as someone I might know. They also bring up people who share ANY IP that you have viewed your profile from. You show up on theirs too. Especially nice if you check LinkedIn at the local coffee shop. At least I can see who my stalkers are now. Thanks LinkedIn!

adrian

8 years ago

Finally! Thanks! I was perplexed that my flatmate appeared on "People you may know" list as we didn't have any contact details of each other and almost never talked to each other. This IP address sharing might be the culprit.

Jonathan Banres

11 years ago

Thanks for the post that was some great investigative work. I had no idea that linkedIn was sharing with 3rd parties, I turned that off.

Scott

11 years ago

I've noticed the People Also Viewed profiles of attractive young women phenomenon as well. Creepy? Maybe. Human nature. Absolutely.

In terms of the recommendations - it's totally email. LinkedIn suggests that I connect with a sommelier in Amsterdam (whom I emailed once about 4 years ago). I'm a designer in New England. There is simply no reason other than a single email exchange that LinkedIn would possibly consider connecting the dots between us.

I suspect that once either party allows LinkedIn access to email, the pipe is open, and regularly trolled for possible connections per your example with "Tami Franks".

Interesting that Facebook gets all the negative press for privacy infringements. Glad to see some attention being paid to LinkedIn.

David Veldt

11 years ago

Yeah, I think email has a lot to do with it as well, but I still can't explain the ones with the same names as people I know...

Mark

11 years ago

Without completely reading through your post, a similar thing happened to me and I also went through severe shock from the uncanny ability of the 'People you may know' feature to throw up names from my past with whom I had no obvious connection . However I've experimented a bit and I've since found that many of the people on my list actually come from a not so surprising source - my search history! Specifically any linkedIn results from google searches that I clicked on while logged in on linkedIn (you have to specifically log out otherwise they use cookies to maintain your session for however long), and also names I directly typed in the linkedIn search bar (even when I thought I wasn't logged in). I tested this out by searching again and again for random people and then watching them and their close contacts land on my 'People you may know' list. This happened a while back and the feature is probably a lot more sophisticated now (maybe suggesting other people to you based on THEIR search history for example).

David Veldt

11 years ago

Without completely reading your comment....just kidding : )

So you're saying that you saw a correlation between searching in Google, seeing the LinkedIn results within Google's search results, and they were later suggested to you? Did you click on the LinkedIn results and visit those profiles?

Mark

11 years ago

>Did you click on the LinkedIn results and visit those profiles?

Yes, I mostly did. I'm suggesting that you at one time or another viewed the linked in profiles of most of the people suggested to you, even if very briefly or so long ago, you don't remember doing it - or at least viewed profiles of people strongly connected to the ones suggested to you.

David

11 years ago

Have you installed the LinkedIn app on your Android smartphone? I did, and I started noticing the same creepy connections soon after. I think it is pulling all the contact information from your phone (which includes your Google account information), which basically includes every contact you have ever had information for on your phone. It's pretty invasive, but that's the only explanation I can come up with at this point to explain how they have made some of those connections.

David Veldt

11 years ago

I did have it installed, actually, and that was my original theory last fall when I first noticed this. Thanks for bringing it up, I completely forgot to mention it in the post.

I installed the app back when I came up with that theory and unfortunately the creepiness persisted. Maybe it wasn't the app, or, maybe it was and they gathered all the info they needed?

alain proviste

11 years ago

Just look at the necessary permissions :

https://play.google.com/store
/apps/details?id=com.linkedin.android&hl=en

If anyone has it installed and exchanges by email/phone with you, I think it may end up in LinkedIn database.
It may explain a lot.

Aowlad

11 years ago

Awesome Post, Thanks Admin

R Woods

11 years ago

It's worse than you think. I contacted Linkedin after they leaked a bunch of user data due to weak security practices and told them to completely close my account. They said they did and a few days later I noticed that they hadn't done so. So I contacted them again and raked them over the coals about it and they assured me that it was taken care of this time.
About a year goes by and seemingly things have gone dark on the account. Until... a few months ago I started getting emails from other members wanting to connect to me. Odd behavior for a non-existant account.
Seems I must be back without even the ability to log in to 'adjust things'.
These people are like a bad booger. I'd fork them up if I knew how.

Julian Raschke

11 years ago

I just wanted to point out that my experience was exactly the same. I wouldn't be surprised if they started calling me out of nowhere. Creeps.

Matt

11 years ago

The reason LinkedIn knew the guy you emailed is because he used the import contacts feature, and your email address is probably one of those contacts.

Mack

11 years ago

Thanks for the insight on LinkedIn, David.

I will go even further than you did, David, by saying that current, popular social-net sites are the epitome of creepiness, rather like an army of near-total strangers living in and passing through my home, with their attendant baggage, bad smells, yellow teeth, and boorish behavior, as well as being untrustworthy.

I, too, have suffered with the confusion that social sites like LinkedIn and Facebook seem to enjoy creating. I have not and will not create an account at LinkedIn, but have received invites from people I hardly know, but may have had to communicate with once or twice for work reasons via email; I suppose they simply uploaded their email address books. I even sent a personal email of non-acceptance and the reasons why to one of these people because he is in the close-knit health care community I work in . I got no reply, which I have since learned is quite typical of mass invites.

The inces2ous relationships with G()()GLE are also creepy.

And Facebook? What a looney-bin it is, with constant changes, insincere apologies after firestorm change-ups, making privacy difficult to control, and on and on. I got so frustrated with F'book that after several months I quit my account - once I learned how. Quitting was good medicine for a bad infection.

gus

11 years ago

I work at a major university. Lots of nice ladies in my linked in circle. Tried the creeper experiment. Only one of the seven profiles had a clear majority of other "attractive headshots" in the "people also viewed" area.

fyi - i signed up for linked in and facebook with an email address of linked-in@mydomain.com & Facebook@mydomain.com - so none it's harder for them to track me by eMail. 🙂

Bryant

11 years ago

It could also be 3rd parties' address books. For instance, an aunt has a cousin and your name in their address book. The 3rd party might not have stored the full names, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. in their contact info but as soon as they uploaded it, you're a possible connection just because both your names show up in the same address book.

David Veldt

11 years ago

True, but how would you explain the instances of them showing the names of people I do in fact know, but have no online connection with?

Thanks for the comment by the way 🙂

Ryan

11 years ago

I can see how one can find Linkedin a bit creepy but as a small to medium size business owner I have found it to be a extremely valuable tool in making some crucial business contacts. Without Linkedin's reach I may have not been able to make contact with my very first distributor and would not be making the advancements our company is making at the moment. I keep Linkedin strictly business and I think that's why I do not see the creepiness as much.

Ryan C.
iBackFlip
CEO
ibackflip.com

Irina

11 years ago

I wish I knew why it keeps suggesting jobs I'm clearly not qualified for, which it knows are outside my field, and which are in the same country but only barely (like 3 hours travel away). Perhaps because it has to suggest *something*, and I never posted my CV because I wasn't using Linkedin for job search.

Matt Coddington

11 years ago

I don't know if there's enough evidence for your attractive female theory. Is it not plausible that attractive women just so happen to be friends with other attractive women or share similar professions / professional networks with other attractive women? So when one goes to the profile of an attractive female chances of them exiting via the profile of another attractive female are quite high.

Similar scenario: I recently friended an Asian software developer. I noticed his "people also viewed" was almost entirely ... other Asian software developers. Seems likely that people simply viewed his profile then exited via a profile of one of his connections (which consisted largely of other Asian men in software development).

Additional similar scenario: If you view my profile, my "people also viewed" is almost exclusively nerdy white guys.

But hell, I could be giving too much credit to the internet. I write this argument knowing damn well it's very probable there's a bunch of guys out there creeping all over hot chick profiles.

David Veldt

11 years ago

Ha, I hope I don't become the guy with the "attractive female theory."

My profile also shows other nerdy white guys, but I have, unfortunately, witnessed some creepy coworkers in the past stalking young professionals on LinkedIn.

Kevin

11 years ago

I poked around LinkedIn and came to a similar conclusion. There are too many confounders in this model to draw any conclusions.

There seem to be correlations along age, university, employer, industry, role, location, nationality, and gender.

Charles

11 years ago

I think this has to be Facebook. LinkedIn suggested two people that I knew from an internet forum we both browsed, and I only knew their real names because we were briefly Facebook friends. I never contacted them via email or any medium other than that forum (which, trust me, has no association with LinkedIn) and Facebook.

Jake Weston

11 years ago

Also IP addresses are involved. I just created a new user in a incognito window with a new gmail I have used for nothing else and was immediately offered the two real people who use machines here (on a static IP address). Which is pushing 'commonalities'...

It also prevented me testing the theory that all it takes is the other person looking you up.

Sean Rodrigues

10 years ago

Same. IP Addresses is a huge part.
There have been people that I have never been in contact with via email, but because I shared the same Wireless connection as them once, LinkedIn thought it would be a good idea to suggest them. This was wayyy too far.

Anthony

11 years ago

I believe linked In is totally making a large repository of contact information when anyone provides it.

The creepy thing I find is my "Who's Viewed Your Profile" is totally inaccurate. Within the last month, the total count of my views has went from 18, down to 5, and back up to 16. Its suppose to be a running totally of the last 90 days, while those numbers are possible, I believe they are making them up or over inflating them most of the time.

Jijesh Devan

11 years ago

Hi, I noticed a similar connection soon after I installed the Linkedin app on my Android device. I think I just went with the default app settings. This has resulted in my contacts getting their linkedin profile photos brought into my phone contacts.

Matt Higbee

11 years ago

LinkedIn can definitely be creepy at times. However, it does create an opportunity to network and communicate with colleagues. I guess the creepy factor is something that I have to get used to. I do try to NOT give them any more information than I think is needed for my profile but they already know so much about me.

Who knows what direction these social networks like LinkedIn will take in the future but I'm sure the creepy factor will continue to increase. I just hope that we will get more privacy options or I may consider leaving them altogether.

David Veldt

11 years ago

Hey Matt,

They definitely need more privacy options but they also need to be more transparent about them and combine them. As I mentioned in the article, I found options in at least 3 different locations.

M. Edward (Ed) Borasky (@znmeb)

11 years ago

Yeah ... let me tell you my two sad LinkedIn stories.

1. A while back, I logged into LinkedIn and it offered to import my GMail contacts. So I thought, 'Hey, why not? It's LinkedIn!" Before I knew it, LinkedIn had sent a message to every blinking one of them asking if they wanted to connect. In other words, it spammed a couple hundred people in my name! I got lucky - only two responded with "who are you? how do I know you?".

2. Those "endorsements" buttons. "Would you like to endorse X for Y?" Sure, why not! *Then* I get a panel of four people / skill matches and an "Endorse All" button. It's like a slot machine.

I don't know what they're up to, but I'm seriously considering leaving LinkedIn. I don't spend much time there anyhow. But yeah, they're getting spammy and creepy.

Jan

11 years ago

My biggest gripe with them is that I can see more profile info on other when I'm NOT signed in. Try this - open up a random profile (of someone you are not connected to!) while logged in.

Now open an Incognito window in Chrome or another browser, and paste in the same URL. Random visitors will see tons more info - and the logged-in user will see a pile of advertising urging them to pay to get at the same data.

How stupid is that?

ten slade

11 years ago

Mustached, trench coat and wire frame glasses wearing mouth breathers of the internet, unite!

Anon

11 years ago

You are also overlooking the elephant in the room. All of these social network sites have one huge item in common that most folks seem to ignore.

While they purport to offer you a "service" and purport that you are their "customer", both are simply bait and switch tactics. Yes, they do offer you a "service", but only so their true reason for being can happen.

What is the true reality. You really are not their "customer" as the purport, you are their product. And their true "service" is to deliver you, their product, into the hungry mouths of the advertising industry so the ad. industry can try to convince you to buy the next new thing they are pushing.

Don't fool yourself into thinking they care about you. They don't. Or at least only just enough to keep you "in the fold". Beyond that, you are simply meat to be fed to their true customers, the ad. industry.

Quint O'Brien

11 years ago

"I’m not even friends with my girlfriend on Facebook." Good man.

David Veldt

11 years ago

You don't think she'll read this, will she? 🙂

Joe

11 years ago

Why not start an account under a fake name and wholly unused email address? Give it a week and report back please.

Cory

11 years ago

The scientific part of me now wonders how many degrees away from a model each girl is... and if there's any correlation between the girls looks and degrees from a model.

MK

11 years ago

Great article - and it alerted me to the existence of the privacy sub-section of the groups tab, which I had overlooked.

I'd assumed that they were using tracking cookies to get at least some of the data they use for recommendations, but they don't disclose anything about it if so. Excellent sleuthing.

Tam

11 years ago

Ever since I joined, LinkedIn has tried to connect me with a guy called D'Arcy. No matter how many times I choose ignore, every couple of months he pops back up again. We do share about 5 or 6 contacts and work in a similar (ish) area but I have never met or corresponded with him. I'm going to investigate my privacy settings now.

AWMcDaniel

11 years ago

Yes! Yes! Yes! Up until now, I thought I was the only one noticing weird connections. Yes, LinkedIn, indeed I did go to 4th grade with that person, but up until now, I didn't even know that they still existed since they left my life in 1997.

I feel like LinkedIn could make a new "This is Your Life." I have had very obscure connections come up on the side bar, and I also can't figure out how they might have come about. Thanks for this post. Now I know it's not just me.

Meta Brown

11 years ago

LinkedIn has a strong motivation to develop connections for new users, so they make a lot of suggestions for those users.

As some people have suggested, they can use information from any uploaded address book that includes the new user, so that is one way they can identify likely acquaintances that are not in the new user's own address book. But they can also glean other kinds of information from user profiles - schools, connections to certain cities, companies and so on. They may make a lot of long-shot (and indirect) suggestions based on that information. Most of these you won't even notice, because you don't know the person, don't care. When they get a hit - you know the person, or you know someone with that name - then it seems creeeepy.

Paul

11 years ago

Tried the young attractive women search (for science of course), couldn't replicate the pattern you describe. In one example, she is a police officer. After 2 clicks all I had as recommendations were police officers (of both genders and varying attractiveness), but predominantly male (as is the industry). Second example, grad students in social sciences. Again 2-3 clicks in, I was getting a mix of male and female of varying levels of attractiveness, and more profiles without pictures than with. So is it an observation bias? Would a female member doing a 'young attractive male' search get something different? Or is my network in need of beautification?

Tia K

11 years ago

Ok, you totally got me at the end when you talked about "People Also Viewed" hot, young women. I noticed this the other day and thought it was just weird coincidence! ALL of the profiles listed there are the most gorgeous ladies I am connected to. I've kind of gotten used to consumer tracking online... I used to be super wary but now I kind of like how everything is personalized. At least I'm being shown suggestions/ads that actually DO apply to me and my interests. Once in a while I sill get creeped out, though.

jon

11 years ago

I was so annoyed and creeped out by LinkedIn that not only will I never use it again, I asked them to ban my email address so nobody could contact me from the site and invite me back. So far so good.

RIz

11 years ago

My only question is.. why aren't you friends with your girlfriend in Facebook? (I'm pretty sure someone asked that already.)

David Veldt

11 years ago

haha I'm one of those [very] few lucky men who has a girlfriend who does not like Facebook at all. Two years running so I think something's working....

Dan

11 years ago

Check out the Ghostery plugin. That should prevent various sites from sharing your browsing information with social networks. It will remove ads as well as third party API calls and other privacy concerns.

Tom

11 years ago

This is deeply unsettling

Abid Chaudhry

11 years ago

Oh man - I just tried the creepy guy thing and it worked.

todd.

11 years ago

Wouldn't be surprised if your girlfriend's stepfather looked you up on LinkedIn a couple of times, nor if that was used as a signal. Seems like that would count as a commonality (similar looking-at-my-profile habits).

Scott

11 years ago

What a pathetic article. You gotta be some kind of stupid to not understand that all they are doing is taking the friends of your friends and presenting it to you. It's the old 6 degrees of knowing anyone in the World thing. Wow, just wow.

David Veldt

11 years ago

Scott,

Thanks for your insightful, value-adding comment. If you'd read the article, you would have seen that many of those people had no association with me and were recommended because they shared the name of someone I actually did know. In one example, the person spoke another language and lived on the other side of the world.

By the way, if LinkedIn applied 6 degrees of separation (as opposed to 2nd and 3rd degree connections as they are known to do), as you implied and thus the possibility of knowing "anyone in the world," then they would just show me anyone and everyone under People You May Know.

David S

11 years ago

You are spot-on right. They are creepy. I've closed my account. I don't need/want professional "endorsments" this badly.

Thomas Fruin

11 years ago

David, great article, thanks for taking the time to point this issue out.

Although a few of the comments touched on mobile apps and their contact lists, I would like to add some of my own thoughts as an iPhone software developer.

Until last year and in Apple's previous version of its iPhone operating system, iOS 5, which is still in use on many devices today, mobile apps had unrestricted access to the user's contact list, including email addresses, phone numbers, etcetera. However, end users generally were not aware of this. In the course of the year an enterprising researcher discovered that the Path social network app was silently uploading its users' complete contact lists without any kind of notification or permission.

In the media spat that followed it soon became clear that basically the whole industry was doing this, including LinkedIn with its mobile apps for iPhone and iPad. I myself have an extensive contact list of over 1,500 people, fully populated with phone numbers and email addresses, and it is a safe bet that LinkedIn is constantly using this data to match me - and my unfortunate contacts - with "people I know".

After the privacy uproar last year, Apple modified its iOS 6 to force apps to ask for permission to access users' contact lists, so now at least you have the option of saying no, denying the app access. But once you enable access, be aware that you're basically giving app owners such as LinkedIn all your phone numbers and email addresses.

Sean

11 years ago

I once use a fake email (but my real name - i have a very unique last name, so it is not easy to miss me) to register an account (ie. no one could have that email contact to upload), and yet I still get suggestion from people I have met. This tells me that LinkedIn is probably suggesting people who have also searched for me on their website (but not necessarily visited my page).

INIT_6

11 years ago

I have never had my own linkedin. I deleted my Facebook over 3 years ago before I deleted it I zero'd out my data. I created a LinkedIn account with a temporary email address with a fake name. I was really trying to be sneaky no trail. I didn't think I needed tor or anything because I was just doing recon work. Bam what did I see 5 of my coworkers profiles. Zero connection except one item. We all shared the same IP address. So they create links that way 100% sure. I thought it was very creepy.

Hope this helps.

Nick

11 years ago

Re. your girlfriend's stepfather, I guess you may have used the Internet from your girlfriend's wifi, and so did her stepfather (which seems plausible). If so LinkedIn may have associated your two accounts as having accessed via the same IP address.

Jennifer Mulder

11 years ago

This sounds familiar... After I used my husband's Ipad to log onto Facebook and Twitter one evening, his "People you might know" - section on LinkedIn was filled with people only I know - and I'm not on LinkedIn. As a non-technical person I figured LinkedIn might use cookies or trackers to figure this out... Thanks for sharing this story David!

PhilTomm

11 years ago

I've made a fake LinkedIn Account while bored at work. It suggested that I add all my coworkers as connections...

Just to make it clear. This was an account with 0 connections, new email with no contacts and the only reason why it might be able to tell I was connected to my fellow coworkers was that I was sitting only a few desks away from their work space...

It was quite creepy to say the least.

sam

11 years ago

i have made the same experiences.

some time ago i googled some random chinese and indian names, like "wang", "srinivasan" or "parasuraman". and although i don't know anybody with such names and don't have them in may mail account, linkedin would suggest me people with such names in my area a few days after.
so, there is definitely a way linkedin uses members' (google) search history to suggest people you may know... very creepy indeed.

Rod Drury

11 years ago

LinkedIn is another example of a leading company that lost it's way and forgot about users.

A simple thing they could fix is having a status of something like 'haven't met you but I should someday'. I get lot's of people wanting to connect that I don't actually know so the network becomes polluted. My network is full of people I don't actually know that it's next to useless now and I'm thinking opting out.

Something like Googles Circle model would be much better.

I'm staggered they have not innovated at all on their core features for years.

Fran

11 years ago

David Veldt, I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but I love you. I have long long felt that LinkedIn was the worst/creepiest on privacy because of exactly your experience. How does LinkedIn know that I know that person? Thank you for bringing this topic to light and confirming my own doubts. I am job-hunting/career changing right now, but the second I have a new position, I will be closing my LinkedIn account.

Gavin Heaton

11 years ago

There are also email plugins that people use. For example, I use Rapportive with Gmail. And while this is great in that it reveals more of the social profile of people I am emailing, it also reveals my own data. This makes it easy for LinkedIn to start cross-pollinating the data.

It's not so much that LinkedIn is creepy. It's that it reveals our own patterns of behavior.

Denis

11 years ago

I completely agree with the creepiness of LinkedIn but I also think it's a highly polished spamming tool. If it wasn't valued so highly by employers I'd drop it in a heartbeat.

When I opened my LinkedIn account I gave it access to my gmail account and selected a few names to send invites to. Then LinkedIn went through my contacts and sent invites to 1,500 contacts!!!!! They said it was my fault as I should have clicked Cancel after selecting the contacts (which makes no sense).

I have since discovered that while they did only send invites to the few names I picked on my main gmail contacts list, they sent invites to ALL contacts on my "Other Contacts" list in gmail. This contains all people I have emailed over almost a decade but have not added to the main "My Contacts" list.

Read here for a LONG list of people who have been burned by LinkedIn and the Gmail problem over the years:
https://getsatisfaction.com/linkedin/topics/why_does_linkedin_think_its_ok_to_trick_me_into_spamming_my_entire_gmail_address_book

They clearly know about it but they won't fix it as they thrive on spamming us all.

There's no way I'm installing their app on my phone and giving them access to my phone directory!

Manne Laukkanen

11 years ago

Thank you very much for this posting. At no point when I started using LinkedIn do I remember being alerted of, or remember opting in to: "data sharing with 3rd party applications or LinkedIn plugins on third-party sites".

Since they share my data, they must have a log of touchpoints they have shared my data with..now don't they? Otherwise they would be handling my data in a haphazard manner, wrt. privacy, now wouldn't they? 😉

I just asked them to provide a full list of all 3rd party applications and sites they have shared my data with. If you are interested, I will share the results of this "exercise". I don't know if this approach by LinkedIn can be called moving in the gray area of privacy or something worse, but lets see. The jury is still out.

Bradley Charbonneau

11 years ago

I just 10 minutes ago was shown a name I couldn't figure out, but the first name is pretty rare, so I dug a little deeper and found out that it was my wife's brother's ex-wife in the Netherlands! She had changed her name back to her maiden name, so I only recognized her from a photo.

10 years ago this wouldn't have happened. Crazy to think of what it's going to be like 10 years from now!

Thanks for the investigative creep-out fest!

Alyse

11 years ago

You're right about them being extremely creepy. Today, they suggested someone that I once emailed off of craigslist about 5 years ago to inquiry about a job, and someone else that I purchased an online course off of about a year ago. I have no level of connection with either of them, and I live in a different country than both of them as well.

They definitely go beyond your contacts AND scan your email accounts for any previous emails sent or received and store those emails addresses to make future suggestions. I didn't even add my gmail account, but i did type it in, so now linkedin keeps trying to make me add my gmail account.

Super Creep

Jess

11 years ago

Excellent article, David.

I, too, was just wondering about the methods LinkedIn uses to suggest contacts as I've had similar situations of the most random people appearing as suggestions at oddly coincidental times. This puts a whole new spin on my way of thinking, and how I approach my online accounts.

Let's not forget that Gmail encourages you to add a second email address in case you forget your pw... so if you've done that, then imported your Gmail account to LinkedIn, I wouldn't be surprised if it then scans your secondary email for contacts, as well.

Jeremiah

11 years ago

it's nice to see that I'm not the only one freaked out by the accuracy of of linkedin suggestions. Recently(as in the past week) I have started seeing people whom i have interviewed with in the past. The past being 2005 when I graduated college. I figured out that they logged IPs when I started a new job and before I updated linkedin with the new company, co-workers were appearing as "people I may know."

I've never manually linked linked in to any of my email or social networking accounts, however I have installed the app on my android phone.

Georgia

10 years ago

Some part of David's theory is my actually my hunch. I keep searching for this guy which is some kind from a royal family, His kinda hot. I look to his linked in profile just to know if he have one. Then the next time I signed in He is featured in "PEOPLE I MAY KNOW" well that time we followed the same group, but after a while i decided to leave the group just lessen the group I joined. But every time I signed in he is still there. I only got few connection which is really out of his network so how was that possible? I already leave the group which is common to us. And the other people which is enlisted in that creepy "PEOPLE I MAY KNOW" is not part of the group I joined but people who were part of my life 2 decades ago and we don't have any communication. So I been thinking they might been viewed my profile. But for the guy I kept viewing he might knew I was viewing his profile because of the Upgrade account. But after reading this I am say that Linkedin might use data from your browser.

Jensen

10 years ago

I went to my ophthalmologist on Saturday for the second time in a year and i saw her today in "people you may know"... i don't have her personal email or any connection to her directly whatsoever. I only called on Friday to schedule an appointment and i spoke to her secretary. In addition there are other doctors at the clinic...

Bruce Berls

10 years ago

I wrote an article tonight about your investigation, http://www.brucebnews.com/2013/06/linkedin-and-creepy-connections/. Two years ago I went on a similar investigation of Facebook and its friend suggestions, which have exactly the same creepy quality, and came up with similar results - other people's address books seem to play a role and the rest is just heavy data analysis of every scrap of information they can put their hands on. http://www.brucebnews.com/2010/07/facebook-friend-suggestions-how-does-it-know/

It's only going to get worse as Google/Microsoft/Apple/Amazon/etc. continue to build out their ecosystems and endlessly crunch data about us, and the services do more and more to build out their profiles of us. Interesting times ahead!

Esme

10 years ago

I agree with you, Linkedin feels creepy. I don't use it much but I was looking for something today and was taken aback to find a name suggested as someone I might know - a former consultant neurologist of my husband who is not someone I would like to be reminded of. I have definitely had no email contact with this person and the only thing I can think of is that I did a Google search on this person or something. Definitely creepy.

David

10 years ago

I came to this post because I've just been freaked out by a "People you may know" email. The suggestion was an old friend who I've NEVER had any electronic contact with apart from telephone. There simply IS no way that LinkedIn could know that there is that connection. We're not in the same industries, not connected on Facebook, and don't have each others email addresses.

I'm a pretty private person, so this really has me perplexed; the only thing I can think of is that he searched on LinkedIn for me and the connection has been made.

I don't like Facebook, but LinkedIn IS WAY more scary.

Stephanie

10 years ago

I don't care for the 'People you may know" part because I can ignore it and DO - what really gets me is people endorsing me who haven't a CLUE who I am (I have called a couple of people on it too.. one creepy looking guy.. I said "I'm sorry, but zi don't seem to know you, maybe I've totally forgotten, could you refresh my memory" & he said 'we've never me' I've not replied to him nor will I ever. Getting REALLY creeped out by LinkedIn, it is not longer a professional site - it's a joke

Erwan

10 years ago

Okay, stumbled upon this article because I got something even worse than you : LinkedIn has suggested me someone I've NEVER met in Real Life, who didn't even know my real life name up until today (when he checked his LinkedIn and saw me in the "People You May Know", yes it was pretty easy to guess since he knew my first name and no one else with that name). Our connection ? We play a certain videogame together and chat through Skype. That's ALL. I don't know his email, he doesn't know mine. I've never searched for him on the website and he couldn't because he didn't know my name. We're not friends on facebook and in fact, we both pretty much never use facebook.
Even more, our LinkedIn profiles are almost completely empty : he has his father, I have two friends from university. (We're not from the same university, nor studying the same field, and our unis are in different cities and not linked in any way)

Getting really creeped out right now because I've always tried (and had managed so far) to never merge internet and private life. LinkedIn has put an end to that and I'm going to have a spike of paranoia very soon because of it. Thanks, "professional" website.

Anne Marie

10 years ago

Well, in "People You May Know," the guy who is renting my basement suite shows up! We have absolutely nothing in common professionally, and the only online contact we have is on gmail, so they're getting their info from somewhere. Our address isn't posted on Linked-In, and we have nothing else in common.

Lori Eldridge

10 years ago

Thanks for the info on Privacy and LinkedIn David, I just signed up with LinkedIn and also noticed something creepy about the "People you may know" list as there are too many people I know in there, some of them are my clients which are easily accessible through my website, others I have contacted by email and checked their website via search, some are "friends" on face book, and others with similar names must be friends of those friends, however at least one of them is my cousin and the only connection to her is via my email program on my computer, because she doesn't have a website -- which means Linked in must be snooping in my email! Yikes!

Kenneth

10 years ago

Thank you for this article. Had no idea about the whole "share with 3rd party" opt-in default. I've never imported any of my e-mail address book contacts into linked in, and even get neighbors, with whom I have no form of professional connection or phone/electronic communication showing up in the "people who I may know" sidebar, among others. Very disturbing, indeed.

Robert

10 years ago

"Creepy"´s the right word!

Today, I´ve found two suggestions for people I might know. One is the name of a Frenchwoman I knew when I lived in Milan in the 1980's. She, or someone with the same name, now lives in France. We dropped out of contact when I left Milan - 25 years ago. The other is the name of an Englishwoman I knew in Marbella - and, again, we dropped out of contact when I left Marbella. In neither case have we ever exchanged email addresses or, in fact, had any other contact whatsoever for the last 25 years.

There have been a lot of similar "events" with Linked In over the last few years, including their suggesting I might know someone, whom I don´t know but who has the same name as someone I do know.

Nameless Faceless

10 years ago

I've had a similar situation. An ex that I dated over 30 years ago and have NO contact with (he lives on the west coast, I live on the east coast) shows up as someone I might know EVERY SINGLE TIME I log into my account! There are always 3 other names as well, but those change frequently. His is always there, and is the first one listed.
I do not go to his linkedin page (even tho I was curious when his name popped up), I didn't want him to have any clue that I had visited, so I didn't.
It has made me suspicious......has he been checking out MY account? WTF?? I don't want to look at this twit's mug every time I log in.

David Veldt

10 years ago

My guess is either he has looked you up, or someone you both know (who may not necessarily be connected to one or both of you) has checked both of your profiles. Also did you attend school together?

Nikola

10 years ago

I recently had a similar experience when I was staying at a friend's place in Melbourne for two weeks. One morning I logged on to LinkedIn to find my friend's housemate, Alia, as the first person listed under "People You May Know", and from then on whenever I logged on to LinkedIn, she would be the first name up there.

My instant reaction was that we must have a mutual connection, which was the friend I was staying with. I just thought it was strange (a coincidence?) that Alia would appear under the "People You May Know" feature at the same time I was staying at their place.

It was only when I realised that my friend was not a connection of Alia nor I, and nor does she even have LinkedIn, that got me concerned! Alia and I don't have any mutual connections and nor are we connected over the internet in any way. We have never sent emails to each other, don't have each other's numbers, not connected on any social networking sites, we didn't even know each other's surnames until LinkedIn told us!!

So yes, creepy in that LinkedIn seems to know who we are living with!

The only explanation I could come up with is that Alia and I were using the same internet connection. If LinkedIn is suggesting people we may know based on our IP Address, then is this not a breach of privacy??

Mario

10 years ago

IP addresses are involved. I have been suggested a 3rd degree connection with no common company, industry, neither school. I have never got his email either.

BUT we share the same internet connection.

However, this is not a privacy breach, since Linkedin Privacy Policy states the following:
J. Log Files, IP Addresses, and Information About Your Computer and Mobile Device
When you visit or leave LinkedIn by clicking a hyperlink or view a plugin on a third-party site, we automatically receive the URL of the site from which you came or the one to which you are directed. Also, advertisers receive the URL of the page that you are on when you click an ad on LinkedIn. We also receive the internet protocol (“IP”) address of your computer or the proxy server that you use to access the web, your computer operating system, your type of web browser, your mobile device (including your mobile device identifier provided by your mobile device operating system), your mobile operating system (if you are accessing LinkedIn using a mobile device), and the name of your ISP or your mobile carrier. We may also receive location data passed to us from third-party services or GPS-enabled devices that you have set up, which we use to show you local information (for example, weather information) on our iPad application.

Therefore, it may be inferred that there are more commonalities behind the "e.g." in the sentence "Commonalities between you and other members (e.g. same company, industry or school)"

ray

10 years ago

I definitely think it has something to do with email and search history, cookies and add-ons, although I don't know much about how it works - I use chrome as a browser and have erased my cookies but have noticed when a pages loads in the bottom corner of the screen 'waiting for' appears with Linkedin in the name.

I only just signed up to Linkedin and was shocked by the 'people you may know suggestions' on my initial login in. I have never shared my contacts with any sites yet the first Linkedin suggestions was a friend from facebook. We have no obvious connections or similarities, but we exchange emails so I presumed they had imported their contact lists - although I was surprised this was ready and waiting for me when I signed up as I had not been invited/recommended by anyone to join.

The second suggestion confirmed Linkedin looks at your search history. The second, 'people you may know' suggestion had the same name, but was a completely different person, as an old employer I had looked up on google a few days earlier (before even joining Linkedin!). I had searched for their name and city in google, while linkedin profiles did appear in the results, I did not opened any of the pages. The person Linkedin suggested I knew was completely random, from a different country, industry with 0 connections.

I should point out that had switched on all the privacy settings and had only added a banner with my name, city and industry to my profile. I had not made any announcements about joining, viewed anyones profile since joining or tried to make any connections.

Suspicious of the suggestions, I logged out and later searched for an ex colleague who I knew to have Linkedin account. Although we did work together a year before, this person now lives in a different country and works in different industry. We are not facebook friends, however it is possible exchanged emails.

I was surprised from simply typing their name and state into google, their Linkedin account was at the top of the results page - their name is not unusual. I did not click onto their profile, simple saw as one of many in the google results. Surprisingly, the next time I logged onto Linkedin this person had added me as a connection.
I assume they knew I'd searched for them - even though I had the privacy settings on and was logged out.

Curious, I changed my privacy settings to allow me to see who viewed my profile. My next login showed my profile had been viewed by a manager of a company in a completely different city and industry. At first I thought this was random as the company was a specialist firm and I had only vaguely listed the sector I worked in and had not said I was looking for work. It was only later when I remembered that years earlier I had applied for job at this firm by email. I never got past the initial application form and had no further contact with them.... creepy

anonymous

10 years ago

You are 100% on target. I've held you EXACT sentiments for some time now -- fully realizing LinkedIn is using one's search history to suggest "people you may know". As you have noted, I have also realized the creepiness of the "People Also Viewed” feature turning up more of the same pretty faces.

Exceptional article! Thanks for taking one for the team but now what must we do to stop this breach of privacy??? To be honest, I cannot afford to NOT be connected in this volatile job market (although I must mention that I have been against it from the start).

Christian

10 years ago

Three months ago I moved into an Apartment with a guy I'd never met who grew up in a different country. We don't work in the same field whatsoever. As far as we know, we haven't shared any online contact - Just on the phone and in person.

Linkedin suggested him as a potential contact. I was thoroughly creeped out.

Katrine PN

10 years ago

Hello!

I am a postgraduate student in London writing my dissertation on the way people make use of LinkedIn either in their search for jobs or in their social or professional networking. I hope my research can provide new insight into the role of technology for employees today.
I would like to ask you if anyone here would like to answer a few questions about how you use LinkedIn? I would very much appreciate your participation! It should take about 10-15 minutes to complete.

I hope to publish my finding in an academic journal afterwards and if you are interested in reading the final research, I will be happy to send it to you. My finding will not be used for commercial purposes and you will of course be entirely anonymous. Please follow the link below to fill in the questionary and feel free to forward it to someone you know.

I appreciate any information you could give me.
Thank you for your help!

You can access the survey here (please copy-paste the link into your browser):
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WPVMNB8

J

10 years ago

Do you use the LinkedIn phone app? It has access to personal info (calendar events and confidential info) and social info (including call logs and reading your contacts). So if you have your android setup to auto sync your gmail contacts to your phone, Linkedin now has those contacts.

J

10 years ago

And they definitely use web searches. I typed someone I knew from high school into google one day, and within a week it was suggesting that person as a possible connection. I have all the privacy settings unchecked too, from day 1. They are creepy as hell, but it's an important part of keeping yourself marketable. Bastards.

John

10 years ago

I agree with the guy above.

People I know keep being suggested in "People You May Know" on LinkedIn, also people with the same name as people I know.

My theory would be that if someone searches your profile, LinkedIn will later suggest that person as someone you may know.

I reckon this is a good way to see who is checking you out. It also means you will be suggested to people you have checked out blowing your cover.

Also, if you search for say, Jack Jones, later LinkedIn will suggest to you people with that name, not necessarily the person you were looking for.

Can anyone out there do some tests to try out this theory?

Simon

10 years ago

My wife recently signed up to LinkedIn from my Mac. She used the email address - her.nameATgmailDOTcom

When she attempts to search/import contacts from her Gmail (her.nameATexampleDOTcom) the results list MY Gmail contacts instead. Meaning contacts from my.nameATgmailDOTcom NOT my wife's email address.

LinkedIn claims not to store passwords yet when she is logged in they have then provided her with full view of my personal contacts!!!

For some this information might be private and LinkedIn's system has compromised that privacy by listing contacts NOT connected in ANYWAY to the email address in question. In this case her.nameATgmailDOTcom.

At no time am I logged into my email when my wife attempts to do the import using her Gmail

Even when she downloads contacts from her Gmail manually using a csv file, when she attempts to upload it AGAIN it lists MY contacts.

They are CLEARLY storing passwords in order for this to occur.

Mervyn

10 years ago

Well, I can't figure out how they do what they do - unless as somebody has suggested, it ties the computer you're on with *any* open and connected account and scours your address book.

I set up a LinkedIn account with an email address that isn't my name, isn't associated with my name and is just a glorified junk folder. It has no contacts in it and I've never used it to email people.

I turned off everything yet it pinged me connections to *everyone* I currently work with. Obviously nobody would ever have searched for my profile because it isn't me.

Figure *that* out...

SatMan

10 years ago

Hi David

I have been freaked out by the connections that LinkedIn makes. And have come to similar conclusions to you. In addition, I believe there is a link to the PC that you use. For instance, as soon as I started using the web browser on my work PC, I started seeing suggested connections appear. This is in spite of me not having nominated my latest workplace on my LinkedIn profile and never having connected with any people at my new work place.

However, yesterday, I was completely freaked out which is what has led me to investigate a bit further and found your most informative blog on this topic. I changed my password on LinkedIn which triggered an email to my nominated account. But it did not end there! I also received an email at my work email address. I have never nominated this company as my new employer on my profile. I have never used my work email address to register on any websites for anything. I have raised this concern with the team at LinkedIn and am awaiting their canned response! However, this leads to some serious questions about what LinkedIn is doing when you are logged on to their website on a device. And like you, I believe we have all assumed that LinkedIn is doing all of this to make our lives simpler (ha ha!!) but this is big brother stuff and definitely must be breaking a lot of privacy rules in pretty much every country!

Big alarm bells going off here and curious to hear more.

Cheers
SatMan

Sarah

10 years ago

Hi,

This is an interesting read after having a less than satisfactory conversation with someone from LinkedIn's Help Center.
I have people suggested to me that do not have, nor ever had a LinkedIn account. It's just their email address in the People You May Know section. I have never entered my Gmail password to look for people, as I was warned off by a friend who had sent invitations to around a 1000 people from her Gmail contact list. I have never synced my address book, and I have never used an Android app. The passwords are different, the share information boxes are unticked and I haven't granted Google access (in my Google account settings).
I can see the contacts were imported into LinkedIn on the Contacts page, this must have happened over the last 2 weeks because I didn't get these people in my list before. My question to the Help Center was how that had been possible. They kept going round in circles and I am no closer to the truth.
One thing is clear: those email addresses were taken from my Gmail account, unless you maybe know of a different reason?

Thanks

Monica

10 years ago

Okay, this is super weird. Something happened to me, and it led me to this website. I'll explain.

Sometimes I go on google to check up on people that I haven't heard in a while. Oh, I wonder whatever happened to so-and-so. He was so cool, or she was so great, ect. Or sometimes I search because, so-and-so told me that they worked at this place, but I forgot what was the name. They really liked this company. So, I'll google their name and their city to see if I can find anything online about the company. I did this once with my neighbor who does not have facebook.

Suddenly, these people who do not have ONE connection in common with me started showing up on "People You May Know." It's creepy. Everything is linked. I'm actually a little paranoid now with everything going on. May have to use a public computer from now on when I want to engage on some google searching.

And they were NOT on my google contacts. NOT ONE. At first I thought it was interesting. Oh, look! There they are! I was wondering what happened to them...until it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Robert

10 years ago

I don´t know which is more creepy - when they come up with a list of people you don´t know, but you did know people with those same names, sometimes more than 20 years ago - or a list of people with names of people you did know, but 20 years ago.

I suppose quite often it must be that though you´ve never searched for them, they have looked for you.

Anyway, I´ve taken myself off Linkedin and Facebook.

Mark Ewell

10 years ago

I accidentally used the import contacts feature once. It was at a time when my LinkedIn and gmail passwords were the same. I was in a hurry, and when I went to LinkedIn I got a page that looked like a login page, so I put in my email and password. It wasn't a login page, but an import contacts popup. Took me a while to figure out how to delete my imported contacts, and in the interim was very weird to keep getting, "You may know..." notifications from people I had emailed.

You're right about the creepiness, though, on all counts. Reminds me of the backlash when Target was using its shopping data to identify expectant mothers, and how creepy customers thought it was when they started getting ads for baby stuff. Target had to start adding filler stuff to the ads so they didn't look like they were just for baby items. On LinkedIn, it generally disturbs me when I get a "you may know" notification from someone I do know, but have no discernible connections to.

As a result of your article, I tightened up privacy controls on LinkedIn and Facebook. Thanks.

Simon

10 years ago

They are presenting people who searched for you on LinkedIn but did not make a connection request.
Yes, it is that simple...

David Veldt

10 years ago

So you're saying that people I don't know, who happen to have the same name as someone I do know and live across the country, are searching for me? While flattering, the data I've collected prior and since writing this article does not at all support your theory.

Robert

10 years ago

I don´t think it can be, for the reason given by David, which is my experience too.

I believe that the answer´s really quite simple. They´ve got a dedicated team, who go out and make an exhaustive survey of the past, present and future of every single person who has ever been on Linked In, who has ever met or even heard-mentioned someone on Linked In. or is going to meet someone on Linked In in the future. I live in a small pueblo in Spain, but I noticed a man with a raincoat and turned-down hat lounging in the entrance of a house opposite. I wouldn´t have noticed, except he was taking a photo of my terrace.

mike

10 years ago

Here is one for you. I just found my daughter as a possible contact on LinkedIn. It has an email address for her that she has not used in years but is still associated with her name. She is not a member of LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter (or any other social networking site) and has never given her email address to LinkedIn. I have never knowingly loaded any contacts from any address book into LinkedIn or given LinkedIn permission to look at my mail or any address book.

And here is something rather interesting. It suggests that she and I have three shared contacts but the words which are usually the link to find out who they are is not actually a link.

Is it possible that LinkedIn has access to email and is making possible connection based on her name and finding that my daughter has been emailing other people that I am linked to?

Any explanations welcome.

David Veldt

10 years ago

Mike,

Have you ever used the LinkedIn app on your phone, or used the Gmail add-on Rapportive?

mike

10 years ago

I do use the LinkedIn app on my phone and thinking about it, this has happened relatively soon (three months?) after starting to use the app. I have never heard of Rapportive.

I raised the issue with LinkedIn helpdesk. They showed me that there is some kind of setting which had allowed them to import my addresses which I definitely did not consciously set and have now unset so that they are no longer "imported". The point is that when new features arrive, LinkedIn tends to pre-configure settings to be as they would like them so maybe the setting snuck in via the back door.

They also claim that I must have provided my email password at some point. I would never do this. But I have an email client running on my PC which the browser may have accessed to get email addresses. Likewise on my phone.

Anthony

10 years ago

To Mike and David
I can say without any doubt that Linkedin accessed my yahoo email contacts/email lists without me having to import contact list or explicitly agree to this. How? I only access linked in from my work computer, and my personal email from my iphone or home PC. The first time i logged into my personal email from work, linkedin presented me with suggestions of people that i'd met on my travels years ago, and from which i still had emails saved in my personal yahoo email account. The link was instant, so that tells me that linkedin searched yahoo without my explicit permission in order to obtain that information. Yeah that is creepy! I wonder if it shows my details to those contacts when they next log in to linked in?

FluRa

10 years ago

Hi David, I TOTALLY agree with you. LinkedIn is indeed so creepy!!!

For safety and privacy reasons I used an alias to register for a LinkedIn account. I also made up a fake job, a fake work place, etc. In all, all fake identities. (I am actually a university student in USA.) Out of curiosity, I viewed the profiles of several students and teachers of my school, but did not make any connections. After a while, on "people you may know" column, several other people of my school showed up. And the creepiest thing is that I also saw my dad's name!!! (And the profile does belong to the real him, not others with the same name, I checked.) My dad works in another country, very far away from USA, in a different industry, and knows little English. He might as well have a LinkedIn account, but throughout my life he never cared much about me, so there is little possibility that he searches my teacher on this website (he might not even know their names!). So what's going on here?! Only if I assume he searches my teachers does the whole thing start to make a little sense. But does that mean that they associate you with someone who viewed the profiles of the same people as you did? But why did not other people show up? My dad was the only one in the column who is not a teacher or student in my school. Does this mean that the website has somehow figured out who I really am? This is scary enough.

PS I never used my real name except in really necessary situations (e.g. amazon shipping, textbook sale website designated by my school, etc). I do not have ANY social media account. (I might registered for Facebook long, long ago, but it was with the fake information and I never used the account).

And I just found out that people whose profile you viewed can see your name?! I did this just out of curiosity and I do NOT want to be seen by my teachers that I viewed their profiles!!!

So I really want to know what is going on here. This is soooooooo creepy. Really, I don't want to use ANY social media ever, ever again! I am totally freaked out...

BTW, excellent article. Thanks for warning us all out about the danger of using LinkedIn and several others:)

Last but not least, could you please help me analyze what's going on in me case and tell me via reply? Thanks a lot!!!

David Veldt

10 years ago

You may have made up a fake name, work history, etc., but I assume you set up your LinkedIn account from your usual email address rather than a brand new one? If so, have you ever sent or received an email from your dad using that email address?

FluRa

10 years ago

Nope, my registered e-mail account on LinkedIn accords with the fake name and everything and I never really used it except for registrations (LinkedIn and probably Facebook, that's it). But I do use the same web browser to access my real email, in which I have very occasional connection with my Dad. But I don't think I am a registered user of the browser itself.

jez

10 years ago

The comments about email contacts prompting the who you may know list is definitely true, I noticed this a year or so back. Also, perhaps more interestingly, they are using the email contacts to create profiles on LI. My father never set up a profile but found one had appeared recently. I have also seen this for a circle of old school friends who most definitely do not use LI, their names are nick-names...as what would be listed in a contacts list.

Yves

10 years ago

I had the same exact experience and tried something not mentioned in the article. It suddenly dawned on my that password for my account was the same as the password on my associated email. It sounds absolutely unfeasible and outlandish that this would relate to the suggestions but oddly enough when I changed the password on my associated email account the odd coincidences stopped.

Jamie Adamson

10 years ago

Hi David:

Your article is correct, LinkedIn are data mining, absolutely no question about that. I have had a few "People You May Know" suggestions that can ONLY have been found by looking at who I have emailed with. One suggestion was a lady who was the owner of a house I rented for a week, our only contact had been via email and at no point did I add her to my Contacts, because she was a temporary contact. She was emailing via VRBO also, so our only link was me emailing her VRBO email address.

When I allowed LinkedIn to scan my contacts in Gmail to find people I know, it clearly went A LOT deeper than than just my Contacts list. Not that I am particularly bothered, but it does shows that when you grant apps access to your Facebook, Google or Twitter accounts, they are looking at much more than they claim.

Thanks for the article, it validated my theory!

Bryn Phillips

10 years ago

Hi,

It goes deeper than just email contacts. I logged in to linkedin today, and at the top of my page I am prompted to complete and education field. Somehow LinkedIn knows that I went to this junior school, and the period I studied there. They think it is a university (school name has "College" in it) and are asking to complete the degree I studied.

I attended the school for a short period of time in 1971 and had for all intents and purposes forgotten that I had ever even been there. No correspondence, no reunions or anything like that.

How do they know???

Bryn

Ironman

10 years ago

Thanks for the post, David - glad I'm not the only one. I logged into my LinkedIn account on IE and then I created a new, fake LinkedIn account in Chrome using a different email address. Immediately, the People You May Know section contained all my colleagues. I guess it does it on IP address. What would be really freaky is if I create a new account on a totally different computer and that still pulls up people I know.

Another thing I'm concerned about is activity feed privacy. I don't want my boss seeing that I'm doing loads of updates so I set 'Turn on/off your activity broadcasts' to off and 'Select who can see your activity feed' to Only You. Using my real persona I connected to my fake persona and then did a couple of endorsements of real people and made a new connection with a colleague. Surprisingly, these activities showed up in my fake profile. I guess maybe I'm delving too much into this but it bugs me that these privacy settings don't actually work. I can't find anything about this elsewhere on the net so I'd be pleased if anyone can corroborate.

Finally, a piece of good news is that the 'Select what others see when you've viewed their profile' setting does actually work. I tested it in my fake account and my real persona showed up as anonymous.

David Veldt

10 years ago

I've noticed the activity feed settings don't work well as well. I turned them off because I had some overly snoopy employers. When I connected with a recruiter, one of them asked me about it (they weren't connected with the recruiter).

Slamdunk

10 years ago

It's all creepy, but it's all predictable. There are so many interactions with third party sites when you visit any other site that it's frightening. Cookies, trackers et al. Blocking third party cookies in your browser isn't going to do very much to stop these associations from being created either.

Do yourselves a favor and install Ghostery, then enable the blocking of absolutely everything it supports.

This site alone is feeding info to Google, Twitter and Facebook for every visitor.

Using web mail sites like GMail is going to cause you never-ending problems regardless of what privacy settings you think you may be making, so that's something to eliminate if you're concerned about this. Use only secure email client apps. In the case of Apple's iOS and Mac OS, if any App Store app violates your privacy settings they'll get blocked/banned quickly, so put through complaints if you know your emails are being harvested. Sharing an address book is one thing, but combing through emails for information is more than just creepy, it's potentially illegal.

sai

10 years ago

i went to Sacramento yesterday for the first time in life to meet few people and today linkedin is suggesting people in "people you may also know" who stay in Sacramento
possible explanations.
1.I have used "Sacramento" while chatting with a friend few days back(google chat)
2.Used address in Sacramento in apple maps while driving to sacramento
3.Used my credit card in Sacramento

Samantha

10 years ago

If someone views your profile on linkedin twice in one day does it show twice? Or only once as it was the same person?

tom

10 years ago

I gave up on all social website. The information mining and exchange of all information behind your back that is illegal but not acknowledged are too much. After deleting FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. I feel so much better.

Mark

10 years ago

I keep on receiving this message every time I log in:

"Don't get locked out of your account! Please add another email to make sure you can always sign in and reset your password. Learn why this is important."

Yeah I know why it's important LI, it's important to you so you can spy on my other email account contacts.

Unfortunately for you, it's not important to me to provide you with this information for your own intelligence gathering nefarious and underhanded purposes. Spying is spying whichever way you look at it. What do you think I am, stupid?

Mark

10 years ago

Having read the above article and subsequent comments, concerns of other people who like me have become a little suspicious of LinkedIn's motives regarding privacy, I too just deleted my account on that social media platform.

Andre Santos

10 years ago

MAN thanks for sharing it! I had the creepiest connection ever! I have one neighbour who i talked 2 times in my life, don't have her Facebook, never searched for her anywhere and still she appears in one of the first persons that i may know. At first i tought it way by IP address but it seems unlikely. And the same with 3 other persons also. By the way, do you have any idea?

David Veldt

10 years ago

Do you think your neighbor has ever searched for you? Any connections, education, etc. in common? Is it possible they are using your Wi-Fi?

Bert

10 years ago

I got suspicious on LinkedIn after I had received several LinkedIn Notifications saying:
"Your contact, , just joined LinkedIn.
Help welcome and get connected".
In the message there is a button with a hyperlink to add the new LinkedIn user immediately to your network.
This had puzzled me especially because I am very strict about my privacy and I never import my address book on social network sites. The strangest thing was that these were people I had never heard of.

Eventually I found out the reason. I share the use of an Android tablet with my wife.
I have the LinkedIn app installed on the tablet configured with my LinkedIn account.
As I have a Yahoo email account, I'm using the Yahoo app for emailing.
My wife has a hosted exchange email account, so she uses the standard Android mail client.
That allows both of us to use the tablet without hassle.
The mail client synchronizes my wife's Exchange address book with the contacts on the tablet, which in her case is huge, as it contains all her professional contacts (close to 5000 email addresses).
Apparently the LinkedIn app has read the contact list on the tablet, and uploaded it to their servers, and linked the contacts to my LinkedIn account, as the app is configured with my LinkedIn account.
As you can imagine, the LinkedIn app got thrown out as soon as I had discovered that. But not before checking the privacy settings just to be sure: indeed the settings didn't allow for any connection to webmail accounts. But that didn't stop LinkedIn from reading and copying the contact list on the device.
They surely are creepy and can't be trusted.

Brewster

10 years ago

DO NOT TRUST LINKEDIN! IT DOES NOT COMPLY WITH ITS OWN PRIVACY POLICY AND USER AGREEMENT, AND IS NOT AN HONEST ORGANISATION!

I can here reveal one of the sinister mechanisms that LinkedIn uses to harvest some of the data that it compiles about its users, and which in my case also resulted in some surprising suggestions for 'People You Might know'.

I opened a new LinkedIn profile and linked it to a Yahoo email account which I use only for anonymous blogging. I provided Linked In with absolutely no other information. The Yahoo account to which it is linked contains no contacts, is never used for emailing work colleagues, is never used for purposes related to my work, and bears no relationship to my real name.

And yet the LinkedIn "People You Might Know" 'feature' has suggested numerous of my work colleagues - and indeed ONLY work colleagues. There is only one explanation, and only one possible connection between the Yahoo email account and Linked In - that is that the 'Reset password' secondary email address used for the Yahoo account contains a similar email domain as that used by my work colleague's email addresses. In other words, by linking an email account to Linked In, you are not only sharing your contact list, but also any other (confidential) information that may be stored in the account settings or personal profile for that account.

The taking of this information is not covered in the LinkedIn Privacy Policy (section 1.4 of which covers what they do an don't do if you link an email account to your LinkedIn profile), and is also therefore in breech of the general User Agreement, which incorporates the Privacy Policy. Neither is it disclosed in any of the roll-over information messages which you can get in the process of linking an external email account to LinkedIn.

I emailed LinkedIn customer services about this, offering them an opportunity to explain how the selections for my 'People You Might Know' had been made, and they came back with the standard response, as David Veldt set out above. I wrote back and told them that this was demonstrably not true, which received no response, and I then wrote explaining what the real mechanism was, and would they like to comment, which has also received no response.

By the way, in answer to one of the questions which has come up in this discussion, LinkedIn's Privacy Policy does state clearly that they do collect it's members IP information - so don't be surprised if people turn up in your contacts that have only ever used the same IP address as yourself.

David Veldt

10 years ago

Your final point was what I was thinking while reading the rest of your comment. Do you access your new LinkedIn profile from work? If so, I'd wager they are generating those suggestions based on your office's IP address.

Also, you mentioned you "provided LinkedIn with absolutely no other information," does that include your name and primary employment or did you use a fake name and only list your anonymous blogging activity as your work experience? I only ask in case your work colleagues were suggested because you share a company or they searched for your name.

Brewster

10 years ago

Nope, never used LinkedIn from my work domain, so they would not have had that IP address. And yes, 'no other information' means precisely that - purely a fake name, occupation listed as something that only very vaguely relates to what I actually do.

But as other people have noted, the use of IP addresses to link users to other users has some potentially very serious consequences. Instead of being buried in LinkedIn's interminable Privacy (sic) Policy, it should be put right up front by them such that users are aware that they are being tracked and linked with other people using the same IP address.

Mike

10 years ago

I have my own domain, so every site I register with, or post to, i use SITENAME@mydomain.com.

So nobody has uploaded their address book and created a backwards reference to me, just not impossible.

Yet some of the recommendations I'm getting are creepy as hell.

And then if you do think "ok, I wanna know what the link is here" so view their profile... Zero shared contacts, zero previous companies, zero in common.

So how the hell did they put that person on, and why the hell are they not saying?

In the UK, the law allows you to demand all information a company holds on you (Max charge also being £10/$16 iirc). If there is a link formed to somebody else, then this "link" (at least from your end) would be information you are legally entitled to be provided with. Could you try requesting that from whatever similar law exists in the US?

Same happened with facebook a while back... my phone did an auto update... and it stole all my numbers. Including people from 15 years back in my life that I only kept the numbers of so I did not answer if they called. Then... Facebook starts recommending them as "friends"... has me wondering if they're getting the same... scary and stinking to hell of being illegal.

Kasper

10 years ago

Thanks for writing this, it's been freaking me out too. Could it be though, that LinkedIN uses the search history of others to determine the 'people you may know'?

For instance, a guy I met in Spanish class shows up in my list. No e-mail/facebook/twitter contact, course is not mentioned on LinkedIN. Only link is that both our names are on the password-protected site of the course organization. So I'm guessing now, that he searched for me on LinkedIN and possibly looked at my profile.

There's some other curious examples, e.g., a girl whom I met briefly when I was in England more than ten years ago (though I think she was among my MSN contacts at one point), and the father (I presume!) of a former co-worker whom I have no email/facebook/linkedIN contact with (and I didn't include this employer on my own LinkedIN).

Ian

10 years ago

If everything we do over the Internet is deeply recorded in its guts, like how everyone's contacts are flooding LinkedIn and other sites, maybe it's time to bring back the anonymous AOL screen names!

Anon

10 years ago

Yep, Google is sharing search activity with Linkedin.

In my 'People also viewed' section, I unfortunatly came across a girl who my husband dated briefly, who hates me something crazy but she was in our lives over seven years ago and doesn't have my email address, shares no connections with me, works in a totally unrelated sector etc. Her work colleague is also in there.

I sometimes have a nose at her public Twitter profile... Linkedin knows my secrets!! I'm pretty annoyed about this!

noneofyourbeeswax

10 years ago

Ditch all social networking. It's actually quite evil.

LinkedIn Is Uber Creepy

10 years ago

OK.LinkedIn is super creepy. I have determined that LinkedIn will look at your browsers cookie history. So, if you have multiple LinkedIn accounts they are getting info from their own cookies placed on your computer for those other accounts. The only way around this, it would seem, is to use a "clean" browser that is just for logging into LinkedIn. Also, avoid using any of the LinkedIn apps for either iOS or Android. These apps could have Google Analytics API's built into them and they maybe accessing your contact lists on your smartphone.

LinkedIn Is Uber Creepy

10 years ago

Addition to my post. The main point, if you are managing multiple social media accounts or know someone that is managing multiple LinkedIn accounts for their job, LinkedIn will make recommendations based on log-ins from the same computer or IP address (household, company, shared network....think coworking spaces, etc.) You may use a friends computer to check your LinkedIn account and find strange recommendations start after that. You may use HootSuite to manage multiple LinkedIn accounts for clients and those clients may get clustered into a theoretical group of possible hits by LinkedIn. Thus, start getting recommendations for everyone in your list of clients.

SY

10 years ago

Go to your Google Security settings https://www.google.com/settings/general-light?ref=/settings/personalinfo and click into "Authorise applications and sites". I had 2 access to LinkedIn granted. i've just revoked them (along with many misc things I've ever granted access to). Google is convenient, but I guess convenience comes at a price.

David Veldt

10 years ago

Great tip, thanks! On that same note, this is where you'll see that Rapportive (owned by LinkedIn) has access to your contacts and everything as well.

MarieAnn

10 years ago

OK .. what is really creepy is ... how does that link that YOU posted go to MY privacy settings??? .. on my REAL gmail account ... ??? THAT is creepy 😉 ... but thanks for the link ... I found several 3rd-party apps that I had not consciously authorized.

Lucy

10 years ago

This one has me really freaked out. I recently left my job . They are paranoid that i am going to a competitor so have been draconian about requiring me to ensure i don't take client contact details (fair enough). I returned my mobile, i have been disconnected from my old work email address for 2 weeks now, and the contact details and email account were wiped from my personal iPad through MobileIron. So none of the contacts, emails, etc are stored anywhere.

I deleted my work email from my Linked in account and replaced it with a personal one. I also deleted my former colleagues as connections, to remove any connection. Yesterday, and two weeks after my access to my work email was disabled, i was in the "add connections" screen - i was chatting on the phone at the same time - but whatever i pressed, it started importing hundreds of contacts from my old work outlook account. I closed out of it so thankfully did not get to the point of it sending emails - that would be disastrous because i am subject to a restraint clause - but when i looked again today - it still brought up a whole list of those contacts in that dreadful screen where you can inadvertently spam everyone if not careful.

I don't understand how this could happen. What i am most paranoid about is that some sort of notification will have gone to my old work email - which is still being monitored - saying i uploaded all these contacts. You can imagine the fallout. I have emailed LinkedIn to ask how they could have mined contacts from an address book i no longer have access to, but not hopeful of a sensible response.

Like others, i was alerted something was wrong when i got those alerts that my contact had just joined LinkedIn - that contact could only be from my work address. Maybe at some stage i did sync my work email with LinkedIn not realising it uploads full details - i don't recall doing so - but once that email address was disconnected, i would have thought the address book details would disappear too. I have read the posts about removing a source, but my work email doesn't show up anywhere connected as a source i can remove.

Petrified my former employer has been alerted somehow and will come after me for breach of confidentiality because of LinkedIn' data-mining

David Veldt

10 years ago

Wow! That is certainly a touchy situation. I've heard before that once you import your contacts, LinkedIn holds onto that data, regardless of whether you remove that email address (to them, contacts are contacts). Please keep us posted on what you hear back from LinkedIn (if anything).

Thanks for sharing!

Kamran

10 years ago

If I'm not mistaken, if you are using LinkedIn on your phone, it uses your address book to suggest people you may know. And if it's an Android phone, your Gmail contacts (anyone you have ever emailed) are included.
That should explain most of the people you are seeing in the "People You May Know" area.

David Veldt

10 years ago

I believe you are right, but do you have any documentation to confirm? To my knowledge, LinkedIn does not mention this anywhere and that is part of the problem.

Neel K

10 years ago

David, I have read your article and your responses to people 's comments. I am certain you are smart and knowledgeable. You have my respect (and admiration). But on this, what's your point when you say this? You telling me that you are not aware that this happens?!
On the point of linkedin stating it (or not), well, (*hands up in the air in despair*) we all know how things work, don't we?

David Veldt

10 years ago

Neel - First, thank you for the kind words. Regarding my question to Kamran above; I was asking if there was confirmation on the use of data collection he mentioned above because LinkedIn certainly hasn't confirmed it. Yes, I'm aware it is happening and yes, I know how things work, but I don't believe we should shrug off LinkedIn accessing your Gmail in any way that you aren't explicitly aware of and have given permission for.

In my article above and throughout all of these comments from readers, we mostly only have anecdotal evidence. It would be great if we could confirm beyond any doubt that LinkedIn is accessing data in ways we have not given permission.

Deborah

9 years ago

I fully agree (on your last comment), however, this would be seemingly impossible unless someone from Linkedin itself chooses to spill the beans. I scanned a lot of these comments, but didn't have time to read every one of them over the last year, but it seems most are focused on the email/contacts angle when their technique is clearly more encompassing than that. i just joined this year and haven't imported anything or anyone nor searched for anyone nor joined any groups. Yet I see that Linkedin is recommending all sorts of groups to me that are very closely tied to things I have searched for on Google. Specific technology courses I've searched for and art....one of their knowledgeable employees will have to be bribed to talk!

MarieAnn

10 years ago

I have just spent an hour reading through your article and all the comments ...

My story:

Knowing how UN-private our social lives and computer activities are - regardless of our supposedly (secure & honored) privacy settings on facebook, Google etc ... I created a LinkedIn account utilizing a pseudo name and corresponding gmail and facebook account (which I never linked the LinkedIn and facebook) for a short time of job hunting. Like several others have said I put in the bare essential information .. no photos or anything either.. no real personal info.

I have been pretty much inactive on them, until recently. I used the pseudo gmail and LinkedIn while trying to track down current address and phone info on a former "friend" who owes me a lot of money and skipped town when I caught said friend in lies about employment and business dealings etc.

All the sudden, I've noticed a lot invites to join LinkedIn geared to my real identity. The creepy strange part is, when I finally logged onto my pseudo LinkedIn account, most all my suggested connections are my real friends and contacts and people associated to them.

The "Profiles Also Viewed" is a mix of people I searched while on there, and strangers I never searched for or viewed. But the people who viewed me (my pseudo) says 1in the last 90 days (someone I viewed connected to that former friend) and 0 searched for me (my pseudo). I came across this blog while googling trying to find out if that box meant those were people who have viewed me or that I have viewed.

I have NEVER emailed ANYONE from the pseudo gmail, have NO contacts loaded onto it, and NEVER imported ANY contact list from ANY email account between any other email account EVER or into Gmail or LinkedIn. I do not own a smartphone so that is not an issue. The last time I was employed in an office was back in 1980's and internet and email were not a part of that environment.

And of course, all the ads that are on my facebook and google searches are a mix of what I have done (exclusively) in my separate accounts.

The ONLY connection is that I am on my one and only REAL desktop computer and I have an old 3rd generation iPod that I use over wifi ... so it has to be simply be the IP address...

I guess I should use the local library public computers instead ... I think I will close down that LinkedIn account. I have not gleaned anything useful and the thought that it is capable of doing a lot more creepy damage (like spamming all my REAL contacts) is not worth it.

Great discussion, everyone! Thanks for all the tips!

MarieAnn

10 years ago

PS. Sorry .. one last note ... AND YES ... that setting on L.I. says the 3rd party stuff is only when you are logged in to your account. I NEVER stay logged in PLUS I clear the cache and restart the computer after logging off.

I just did some checking and under Groups You May Like and Ads You May Be Interested In ... are all things from my REAL life that I have NEVER put on LI or searched for while logged in to LinkedIn... except for a couple times I might have forgotten to empty cache and reboot.

So yep, they are monitoring a lot through our computers themselves. .. that simple ... but my settings are pretty tight for cookies on the computer as well as sites I use like fb so...

How do you EVER stop all that from happening, other than just disconnecting from cyberspace all together??

pF

10 years ago

There is something very creepy's going on here.

As an experiment I created a bogus LinkedIn account using a bizarre random name generated by LastPass. This "user" had an associated unique anonymous E-mail address not used anywhere else. The "user" had no contacts for LinkedIn to import.

Now, when I log in to the bogus account I see the names of people who I have tried to connect to in real life under my own real account. I have never even imported my own E-mail contacts.

si

10 years ago

Yeah, same here. I have just created an account on their website using an email address i have -never- used anywhere online. Boom, do you know these people? And the list is practically EVERYONE I work with or for.

Is this even legal? They are definitely helping themselves to my data.

TimP

10 years ago

There is another creepy case where even if you sign up with a dummy email account that has no contact history and doesn't exist in any of your coworker's address books, LinkedIn will compare the IP address where your registered from and suggest other users who have accessed the site from the same IP and recommend them as contacts.

I tested the case where I created my account from an cloud IP and then logged in from a work IP and it didn't have this behavior, for what it's worth.

jamnel1

10 years ago

This answer is simple in this error of data-mining and compiling. When you use Linkedin, Linkdin mines your Facebook account, your address book, and other apps that may have contact information. They do this to you and every one else that logs in to Linkedin. Through a fairly sophisticated algorithm they compile the mined data that leads people to you and you to other people. It really gets creepy when they track where you and these people are, and have been, and what you do when get there, and what you did when you were there. The future is here.

Leigh

10 years ago

I agree the site is worryingly connected to your email content.

I received an email with a former girlfriend and somebody I had a dalliance with along with a wedding planner as three people I may know. No other suggestions just this unholy trinity oddly ignoring my then girlfriend who I had not connected with since she was in a different industry.

At the time I had just started using the site and had imported contacts which working in sales led to a large number of people. It singled out these three into a little triangle despite there being many other more relevant people from my list in my company and my contacts list.

Interestingly neither was set up as a contact in either of my email packages.

I can only assume it scans all your emails no matter how old for keywords.

neel koss

10 years ago

A very well -written piece. I was googling to find an answer to a privacy issue I was facing. Someone not in my network phoned me and said that he knew things about me that I had kept 'secret' from him!
Many results came up!
This is the only one that seemed 'neutral' and 'objective' in a bunch of results that showed up on the Google SERP's.
Rest all results that came up have the linkedin domain listed out there! So much for better search algorithm!
I would like to connect with you and stay in touch. Perhaps there may be something that we can work on together at some point of time.

IM

10 years ago

Google monitors IP addresses from which you connect to your mail accounts.

I got an invitation to connect with a person I only ever contacted face to face or by phoning. Last week while visiting the company I connected to their office Wi-Fi to check my mail. Two days later LinkedIn sent me an invitation to connect with the director under the title ‘Do you know this person’.

The only way they could get the name was by checking the IP address registration and by monitoring IP addresses from which I am accessing my Hotmail account.

This is MAJOR data protection violation. They only could get this information by hacking. I do not think that Service Providers are allowed to sell the names of registered clients.

David

10 years ago

I just came across a LinkedIn suggested connection that is my YouTube upload email address. There is not even a LinkedIn account with that address attached. The only places that email address resides are on my phone and in a Google database somewhere. I never uploaded my email list with LinkedIn. Even if I had, that address is not in it.

tony

10 years ago

you are 100% correct. LinkedIn is pretty creepy. I found 2 of my neighbors under people you may know. (I didn't add them)
I see them occasionally. we hang out by the pool. We are not facebook friends. No mutual friends or any linkedin connections. I believe LinkedIn is tracking my location and listing other people that are logging into linkedin from the same location? Really weird.

Al

9 years ago

I came across this post when trying to figure out a potentially dangerous linked-in issue for a relative.

My relative set up a linked-in account using her personal email address. The profile was blank; it only gave her name. She uploaded no contacts and had no connections.

Yet, when she logged into the site, she was getting "People you might know" suggestions that were confidential case clients that would never have her personal email address, only her work email address that goes through a secure system. My relative has never searched for these people on google, nor viewed their linked-in profiles. There is nothing to connect her with these people.

The only way I can figure out how these suggestions are being made is that someone on linked-in has uploaded a contact for my relative that includes both her work and personal email address -- and linked-in has recognised the personal email address, and then recorded the associated personal email address on my relative's linked-in data record. Then, when one of her clients has uploaded their contacts featuring her work address, linked-in has then referenced the associated personal address with that work address, and sent a PYMK to my relative's linked-in account.

The troubling thing is that this suggests that while you can control, to some extent, your own data sharing, linked-in can get around this by mining other people's data that contains your personal details -- details that you would never want to share with linked-in.

Upandhi

9 years ago

So, I get a weird friend request from my barber on Facebook, which doesn't make sense. 1) My Facebook account is just a couple weeks old and I use a fake name and email address, also with fake name, which I don't use for anything else. 2) My barber doesn't speak English (and I don't speak his language), doesn't have any info about my fake account or any of my real accounts. I have no online interaction with him or anyone he knows, etc. Our paths only cross in the barber shop. Yet, mysteriously I get a friend request--my first one--from him on my secret Facebook account! The only possible link I can imagine--just yesterday, he asked me to confirm my telephone number. That telephone number is linked to my secret Facebook account to use in case I lose my password or something. So, creepily, just by having my phone number the "secret me" probably somehow popped up with my picture (which is real) on his Facebook friend recommendations list. THIS IS WHY I HATE FACEBOOK!!

Anne

9 years ago

I deleted my LinkedIn account a couple of years ago because one of the "people I may know" was a very ex boyfriend's (10 years ago) uncle. I met the man twice in my life and had never communicated with him online. It very much weirded me out, because how the hell would this website know I know this random guy? (We had no similar connections, he is 30 years older than me and lives 2 hours away from me). He is a new millionaire, and I just remembered that I googled his name one time because my ex said something like "my uncle's name is all over google" (for how he got his millions). So yeah. I finally figured out how LinkedIn knew I knew that guy.

JHD

9 years ago

I have a similar story to AL. We have a vacation cabin in a small, rural neighborhood governed by a homeowner's association. About two years ago the name of a neighbor down the street popped up on my LI contact suggestions. I had no personal connection to him, and only saw him once a year at the association meetings. We had no common connections, no similarities in work, likes, home town or school, I had never emailed him (didn't even know his email) and I had never searched for him on any website. Now here's the creepy part. When his name showed up on my suggestions was he had just recently passed away from a massive, unexpected heart attack. The only explanation I can come up with that remotely makes sense is that one of the association board members had both of our email addresses in their address book and joined LI about the time he died and either uploaded their address book or LI had access to their emails and that made the connection between us.

Maria Sal

9 years ago

Here's what really ticks me about LinkedIn. The better part about it is at least I don't consider myself unattractive, but I have set my privacy settings to keep my photo private to the public and only visible to my Connections. Somehow, I type my name on a Google search box and guess what? My photo shows up publicly under Images. How in the hell did that happen? No matter how many times I've hit the Report button on the Google's public we images, my pic still keeps popping up!

David Veldt

9 years ago

I've seen a lot of that as well. LinkedIn's privacy settings can be easily bypassed if you visit a page through Google instead of through LinkedIn. For instance, for people that have their last name blocked and display as "John S." all I have to do is search that person's first name, job title and company (all still visible) in Google and I can get their full name.

Nameless for now

9 years ago

I had Linkedin, with minimal info and no photo, for about three weeks. The PYMK emails freaked me the hell out: I don't use social media, so presumably they were mining my emails. Worse than that was a request to link or connect or whatever from some dude I'd never heard of. I only joined because I'm looking for work and a course trainer said it was a useful tool. Not for me it isn't, I've closed the account. Made my skin crawl just like Facebook did when I tried them a few years ago.

MJ

9 years ago

What's even creepier is that I just realized my own browsing affected what appeared on someone else's "People Also Viewed" page. Now that person is likely to know it's me. Realizing this, I tried to search for a bunch of other random people so it would change that person's "People Also Viewed" list again, getting rid of the people that person will recognize, but it isn't working. The list is staying the same, showing the people that I searched for that will be recognizable. How can I get that person's list to change and reflect my new searches?

DM

9 years ago

In 1998 (before I even had email!), I saw a therapist for some personal issues. This guy just showed up on LinkedIn as Someone I May Know!! How the hell is this possible???

Jay

9 years ago

Here is one that has me stumped. I use 2 emails, one of which has never been associated with LinkedIn in any way (that I know of). I signed onto LinkedIn recently and they suggested a woman I know. She only has this 'non-LinkedIn' email, so even if she uploaded her contacts, the email she has for me would just be arbitrary & not the same one that LinkedIn has on file for me. If she had the same email for me as LinkedIn does, then I get how they made the connection, but she doesn't have that address.

The only connection I can make is that my gmail account, which I use for LinkedIn, has a backup email on file for me in case I ever get locked out out my account. That backup email is the one which this woman has.

Does that mean gmail is sending my backup email address over to LinkedIn even if I have set up my gmail account not to share that type of info?

Neil

9 years ago

So having avoided LinkedIn for years, I started a new business and hence I had a new email address. Even if people had given permission for their email lists to be imported by LinkedIn, my new email address would not be in it.

I have ensured my outlook was closed when I used LinkedIn and for several sessions, no 'PYMK' notifications. I have not given permission to link my email accounts and my permissions/import list is empty.

Suddenly tonight I forgot and had my Outlook open as I logged into LinkedIn.....BANG...suddenly my 'PYMK' is now populated with everyone I have ever emailed, not from my new email account but my old work email account, which I still access through outlook. So not only are they data mining without consent, which is a disgusting breach of privacy, but they are doing so for an email account you have not registered with them, but their 'snooping' software clearly harvests from your outlook.

So there you have it, proof that 'Linked in' is accessing Outlook without any consent. Privacy in the digital age is being abused and it is probably doing it with Government blessing, just as long as they can access the data whenever they want too.

Closing my account as a result.

David

9 years ago

I just closed my LinkedIn account. I had people who could only be associated with me if LinkedIn was doing something very creepy. A person who worked for my employer as a contractor years ago kept popping up as someone I may know. I do NOT access LinkedIn on my work computer, and I can NOT access LinkedIn on my work computer due to security settings. I work for a very large employer. This person had no mention of my employer on her LinkedIn profile. This person had no way to know my personal email address. You get the idea. LinkedIn could only have any idea we had ANY association if they were mining data in some unacceptably creepy way. That's just one example. There was another person who I had no other contact with other than briefly being facebook friends before I blocked him. I won't bore you with more details, but that should give you some idea of why my LinkedIn account is now closed.

Sohan L. Khungar

9 years ago

Many of you have suggested many souces for Linkedin gussing the names of People You May know. Most of you are probably right about all those possibilities. I am a rather late entrant to the social networks, including Linkedin (I have still not figured out what one does on a Tweeter account!).
I have no doubt that Linkedin is mining your emails for suggesting People You my Know (my email has hundreds of names, and they ALL show up in the suggestions by Linkedin). I just hope that they don't have access to complete contents of my emails. I had just sent a feedback to Linkedin today, asking them if they are hacking my emails to suggest those names. Then I decided to search this topic on Google, and hit a gold mine in this thread. Thanks to all of you.

David Veldt

9 years ago

Can you let us know how LinkedIn responds to your email?

Tara

9 years ago

Yes, I totally agree - Linkedin is really creeping me out now. Today, I just had a person on my list of "people you may know". I've never met the man, we have no shared connections and I'm not on Facebook or any other social media sites. The ONLY connection is that I dated his son for several weeks last year. The weirdest thing is...with the guy I dated, I was never affiliated with any social media sites with him, nor did I ever email him (he didn't even know my email address). So there should be absolutely no similarity between the guy I dated or even his father.
My only guess is that Linkedin is suggesting people who have 'name searched' someone with out even clicking on a person's profile. I'm thinking that this man searched my name, but never 'visited' my profile. So now Linkedin thinks I may know him. OR he could have been one of the many 'anonymous' viewers who visited my profile in the past - those creepy anonymous viewers...that's another story in itself.

Aida

9 years ago

I was wondering, if someone comes up as a suggestion on people you may know and I remove the suggestion by clicking the X next to their name, will I be removed as a suggestion from their people you may know as well? Just wondering if anyone know the answer to this.

John

9 years ago

A few days ago I logged into LinkedIn on my wife's laptop. Her Facebook account was also logged in. The very next day, I got PYMK suggestions from LinkedIn that are my wife's Facebook friends. I have no connection to her friends, nor my wife's Facebook account. This is way beyond creepy.

Mark

9 years ago

It's true. LinkeIn is creepy in the sense of how they know what they know. My own proof: in the upper right corner of the screen you often have notifications about people wanting to connect, people you may know, etc. Just today I was on my home page when I saw a notice pop up in this upper right corner area that I have never seen before: "So-and-So has just become a LinkedIn member" or something like that. Never saw that type before.

Of course, LI cannot notify me of EVERY new member's arrival, so how do they decide who to tell me about? This particular new member works in the same city that I live in. I don't know where she lives, but I know she works in my city. I know her, and she knows me, but we are not friends nor have we ever worked together. We are in completely different industries as well. We are unlikely to share any friends or co-workers (she in government social services, me in financial industry...).

As it happened, I was glad to see this message. Let's just say that I don't want that person to see my profile as it appeared at that time. Knowing about her arrival led me to alter my profile at once. I won't say why.

But I still don't get how on earth LI thought it could be relevant to me to see this person's new member status. Same city doesn't cut it. It can't be that simple. If it were a tiny village, okay, but this is a good-sized city.

The conclusion: creepy. Scary. Me no like.

Cinnamon

9 years ago

I suspect LinkedIn may somehow access names people on whom I have done Google searches on though I don't know how they could do that. They have asked me if I knew a person or said a person wanted to connect with me when it was a professional I had never e-mailed or received e-mail from and I only recognized the name because it was a professional I had Googled in a search trying to decide if they were a dentist or carpenter, etc, whose services I might want to engage.

I think that the way they select people to try to connect to each other is scary and diabolical and I disassociated myself from LI in the past because of that. Since leaving LI I have dismissed connection offerings from people I did not know with a polite note thanking them for their interest but saying I have left LI. These were all people unknown to me but working in my same profession.

But recently three friends of mine all supposedly decided to ask me to connect with them on LI, all three in the same two week period. They do not know each other. And I'm betting none of them initiated the connection request themselves. I was caught off guard and said "yes" to each instead of my pat response of having left LI. But I wised up after the third one and will probably now contact each privately and explain that I would love to keep in touch with them personally but not on LinkedIn. Then I will tell LinkedIn, again, not to contact me anymore as if that will do any good.

joe

9 years ago

I had to disable my linkedin account. I had an old flame write me on yahoo and i told her to never contact me again. She was very crazy then and now its been exacerbated. The account on yahoo she emailed i had set up as a joke to see how emails were sent and track how i was being tracked. Has no name association and all misleading info. It was set up to see how my name would be found and all that jazz.
I get an email two days ago saying my old flame will contact my wife and she knew her full name exactly as its displayed on linked in and even gave her new work address. Its invasion of privacy and now i have to worry that this person is full blown crazy and will start something in my personal life. I literally have nothing else linked to that account and its scarig the heck out of me that someone would be able to glean that much personal info and make a mess of my personal life based on a linkedin profile.

Jake Jacobs

9 years ago

I was definitely creeped out by LinkedIn's behaviors. I tried everything I could find to cut out their recommendations. With FaceBook it was easy: just deleted all cookies and history on my computer, and all creepiness was gone. With LinkedIn, nothing seemed to be working.

So I had a thought, and I did it. I deleted every single contact in my Google gmail account. Every last one. Then I opened up LinkedIn, and x'd off a few remnant entries. And it's all gone. That did it.

There is absolutely NO QUESTION that LinkedIn is using your Google contacts.

I am going to try to exist for a while to see if I can live with disconnecting, and leave all contacts out of my gmail system. Then, if I feel a need to, I will restore all my contacts with the google.csv file I exported before I tried this crazy attempt.

Jake Jacobs

9 years ago

I wanted to offer a follow-up to my comments on LinkedIn.

Over the past few days, with zero contacts in my Google Contacts account, LinkedIn was completely devoid of "people you may know." And as I emailed people, Google saves any email addresses I use in "Other Contacts." This makes those people autofill when I want to send an email, so that convenience is slowly returning for anyone that I write to just once.

With 18 people in "Other Contacts," LinkedIn remained devoid of people I might know.

This morning I opened LinkedIn in one tab of my browser, and my Google Contacts window in another tab. I selected all 18 contacts in "Other Contacts," and copied them all into "My Contacts."

Less than five seconds later I switch over to the LinkedIn tab to check. And sure enough, faster than I could get there, "People You May Know" started being populated with one of my contacts' coworkers with whom I have never communicated, and other people who were obviously in the contacts lists of my eighteen people. These will remain until you go under Connections in LinkedIn and "Skip" them all. It still takes an act on your part to get them to go away once they are there. But with no contacts in Google, no replacements are inserted, and LinkedIn's recommendations remains clear.

So it appears that one could live without ever adding anyone into My Contacts, and instead just leave everyone in Other Contacts, and one would avoid the creepy LinkedIn recommendations.

Jake Jacobs

9 years ago

One more thing. I researched LinkedIn's disclosures and policies to try to find where I gave permission for them to directly link into my Google Contacts. It was hard to find.

During the sign-up procedure you have to click a "Learn More" link. Hidden there is a statement--not an option, not a choice, but a statement--that by signing up with LinkedIn they will use your contacts that are associated with your email address to make recommendations of people you know. It is locked. There is no way to not give that permission. They just do it. So, if you want a LinkedIn account, you have no choice but to permit them to directly link into your contacts list.

Furthermore, there is no way to later rescind this permission.

Jake Jacobs

9 years ago

Good news. One last tip.

To completely end all LinkedIn recommendations of people you know, you do not have to go through the efforts I did. You do not have to delete all your contacts list.

All you have to do is move them from "My Contacts" to "Other Contacts." To do this, access the My Contacts list, and select all the contacts you want to move. Use the single checkbox at the very top to select all that are visible. This will expose the "Groups" button above the list. Open the Groups, and unselect the "My Contacts" box.

This will remove all these names from My Contacts, and will reposition them into the Other Contacts.

When you have completed this procedure, that's when you go back into LinkedIn and "Skip" all the recommendations that are present.

With that, all the LinkedIn creepiness is gone.

KD

8 years ago

I don't have a gmail account yet LinkedIn is pulling up email addresses from my computer's address book and my independent email account!
I wish I had never signed up for LinkedIn. It's worse than all the others.

Dominic Watson

9 years ago

I'm also assuming this is from user's importing contacts. But was going to say: Why not create 2 anonymous accounts and then slowly interact with one another and see when that second person pops up.

1) Set ultimate privacy on Facebook on both accounts
2) Add one another
3) Send an email to one another
...

MB

9 years ago

Using a "throw away" email address does not protect you. Linkedin has revealed to me the actual identites of people with whom I had transactions via Craigslist. I used an email account not identified with my Linkedin and not even from the same provider (I used gmail for Linkedin but Yahoo for CL). The people buying or selling on CL also used anonymous email addresses. Neverthless, Linkedin soon popped those people with real first and last names, locations, and jobs into my suggested connections. From anonymous CL transaction to total knowledge in an instant.

English Teacher

9 years ago

Great article. I wanted to mention I had 2 past connections creep up on my "people you may know" section. The weird thing is that my linkedin account is connected to one of my "junk" email accounts which I only use for things like facebook and etc, so I wouldn't be bothered with notification mail in my main email address. Those 2 past connections wouldn't be connected to my junk account, with the exception that one of them used to be on my facebook friend list for about 2 months until I deleted him, back in 2008, way before I was on linked in. They also don't work in nearly similar industries and we don't have any mutual friends.

Another caveat is that I legally changed my last name a couple of years ago and neither of those contacts would know that.

My only guess is they may have looked me up on their end and found me based on my first name and industry and just looked at my profile. I haven't upgraded so it doesn't really shows who's checked me out.

C

9 years ago

David, I am tired of giving up my info for free and without notice. Do you know any organization that will help us get organized to pass laws against this kind of trick? It is obviously a trick because they update they platforms so many times that one day we will agree to sign our life away without noticing it.

G.

8 years ago

I'm a person who really takes care of my privacy online. I tend to follow all good advices and good practices. I was really an anonymous person in the virtual world when, for different reasons, I needed to have a presence online in social networks.

I always surf in ALL the options configuring and deactivating all the invasive stuff. So far, so good... Until I made a Linkedin profile. I have almost all my e-mails anonymous and without contacts. Just e-mails I exchanged that I don't even keep in the cloud. I have them locally in my PC with an e-mail client.

So, I was really surprised when I started to see people I REALLY KNOW in that infamous suggestions (specially the ones I don't want to contact to). Some of them I can understand how Linkedin figured out how are related to me, and others are not like me, and they sure synchronized their e-mail accounts with Linkedin. That can explain it.

BUT, there are a few that NOT enter in that categories, as some explain in other comments here.

Even Facebook was not that invasive experience as Linkedin...

I really need a new job, and Linkedin seems to be a very good tool to achieve that. But as they are using the information exchange in very obscure ways, when I reach my goal I will delete my profile from there.

Of course I know that it will still be there in their servers for ever, but It's only CV info that they won't be able to use openly at least.

I'm very surprised how they cross digital information. And an employee there may know how deep that goes...

Something like this never happened to me using other services. In one hand is very irritating, but in other it's interesting from a "tech-info" point of view.

This is just starting. The future seems so much more scarier...

Thank you for this article. I'm still a little bit surprised because my efforts and behavior online, but I'm relieved that the results are from their practices and not my fault.

Sorry for my english, I'm out of practice.

Saed

8 years ago

I noticed something really weird, I created 2 new emails, with no contacts and nothing in the in their inbox, and then I created new linked accounts with those 2 new emails, and the following happened every time:

when I reach the people you may know suggestion page: I will always get the same names:
Myself & My Flat Mates!!!!

I'm now suspecting it may have to do with the LAN network, are they reading the router's mac addresses? do they have a database for all mac addresses?

Kenneth

8 years ago

This has to be just one of the things that they are doing. It sounds like my experience about which I wrote on JUN 26, 2013, having a neighbor with whom I've had absolutely no form of electronic contact being suggested to me as a PYMK. One things for certain, if there are any regulatory agencies with a jurisdiction to look into such things, after so many years of these goings on, they are not interested in doing it. I wonder why?

MattP

8 years ago

Six months ago a complete stranger reversed into my car, we exchanged names, addresses and telephone numbers for insurance purposes. When I got home I decided google his name and address, just to try and verify he had given me legitimate details. His name came up on Facebook but it wasn't him. A month later he appears in my 'people you may know' email from Linkedin. WTF? I'm not on Facebook, so wasn't logged into that while searching for him. I didn't search him on Linkedin. We never exchanged emails. I don't have any linkedin, facebook, or twitter plugins installed on my internet browser. I don't have a google account. So how the hell did linkedin connect us. It is creepy and I don't like being spied on...

Lee Houghton

8 years ago

Most likely he has saved your details somewhere (maybe phone contacts), has the LinkedIn app, and from that it's easy to infer that you probably know him.

Erik Steinhauer

8 years ago

This morning I e-mailed my client about a subcontractor. The e-mail was one sentence stating that "I performed new employee orientation for Joe Blow of ABC Electric".

Later on today, Linked posted an add asking me to consider what it would look like if I took a job at "ABC Electric".

There's no way they could have known about my short relationship with ABC Electric if they weren't reading my e-mails. There's simply no way.

Note that I wasn't directly e-mailing ABC Electric, and that they weren't the subject line of my e-mail. They were, however, mentioned in the content of my body of text.

I've tried Googling this issue, yours is the first website that come up at least attempting to explore this level of creepiness.

Rose

8 years ago

LinkedIn: I haven't yet updated my profile, I used a hotmail email address. The email address was never used in connection with the list of people 'whom I may know;........I know them all, but only have contacted them via my old telephone number (which I changed over two years ago)! Spooked or what! Enemy of the State....

I'm not on FB, Twitter etc.......

Jake Jacobs

8 years ago

Erik, and others:

Search for my name back around March 21 of this year (2015), and you'll find some research I did. I believe it will very clearly explain exactly what they're doing and how they do it.

Linked In does not ask your permission. When you sign up an account they simply inform you (deeply hidden behind "learn more" links) that they are going to use your contact list.

The contact list they use is, at the least, the primary "My Contacts" in Google. I solved the problem by removing 100% of all entries in "My Contacts," and put them all into "Other Contacts." The problem immediately disappears. LinkedIn no longer recommends anyone I might know. Apparently they do not sweep "Other Contacts."

--Bryan (a/k/a Jake Jacobs) Pulliam
Postalocity.com

Jake Jacobs

8 years ago

Erik, I re-read your message. I missed that "ABC Electric" was just in the body of the email. I had first thought you emailed someone with that domain name. When you email someone, Google will immediately add that someone to your "My Cotnacts."

If the recipient was not ABC Electric, and your only reference to ABC Electric was in the body, then I would say that I have read and am aware the Google does sweep content of emails and catalogs profiles in some manner or another. Your report would suggest that in addition to the "My Cotacts" sweep, LinkedIn is also being availed access to Google's email sweep data.

I have been led to believe, but have not vetted the info myself, that free Google accounts are swept more freely than business accounts. My access is a business account. This could also possibly affect the results of my testing the sweep of "My Contacts" and "Other Contacts."

LOl

8 years ago

A couple years late, but I joined linked in and one of the first people to come up was my estranged father. I haven't talked to him since before email came about, have never, ever done a search on him and have had zero contact for more years than I can remember - it was even 3 states ago.

The only way he shows up is if he searched for me - I don't even know how they could have used combined contact lists. Not a single person in my contact list has the same last name.

It is an unusual last name and may have come up through me or someone else looking at info on that last name.

Either way this is beyond creepy. I also didn't realize others could see i just looked at their page- ugh. I thought I could see contacts of contacts (like you can on facebook) and got pinged by one of the other 2 or 3 people who I definitely wouldn't want to talk to again. EEk and yuck.

Deleted the whole shebang.

Kirsty

8 years ago

I am so glad someone else finds linked in CREEPY . There is a lot of growing pressure to use linked in if you wish to pursue career options and all it does is make me feel very uncomfortable... what is the world coming to?

Heidi Wruck

8 years ago

Thank you for writing this article. I have recently been coming across a few name suggestions that have weirded me out - one is my ex-fiancée's girlfriend, and the other is an ex-friend who moved countries and I haven't been in contact for 8 or so years. How these people popped up on my LinkedIn suggestions is beyond me and frankly quite scary as to what data of mine they can access - I don't particularly like the thought of my ex-friend being able to see such data!

Chance

8 years ago

Had call from my son asking when I had joined linked. Told him I'm not a member. Informed they had my name, where I work, and my position. Showed address of where I work. I'm on FB but do not show where I live, work or pictures. How did they get this information. Lady at work helped shut down the account. Son works for the AF and in IT. Knew I would never give out personal info and was worried.

Shan

8 years ago

1) I opened a Linked In account some time ago, but never entered any info other than my name. I forgot I had opened an account altogether, but discovered I had today. Would people whose Linked In account I've viewed be able to see I've viewed their account even though my account only showed my name? 2) Also, since I closed my account today, would they still be able to see that I viewed their account?

Will

8 years ago

I've been using LinkedIn now for about 4 years, and about a year ago is when I became a frequent user because of job hunting and what-not. Well, I'm surprised every day by the people that LinkedIn suggest I should know. Some of them are people I've hooked up with from a dating app, others are people that I remember knowing a loooong time ago but have no idea how we know each other, and others are people that I just didn't have a substantial connection to. The only thing that I can imagine is that the LinkedIn app somehow takes information like phone numbers that you've texted or dialed and tries to connect people that way. In any case, it's beyond creepy and I'm pretty sure it's illegal.

SF

8 years ago

Linkedin states they exist for "professional" networking. Now I know what "profession" they are talking about. I didn't mind adding my photo to Linkedin, I am not a young woman.

But I started receiving inappropriate emails from men who knew all about me. Some were members of dating clubs that pay linkedin to access individuals' data as "third parties". Linkedin lets their members get my data and view my profile anonymously. This must be a lot worse for attractive young women and men.

The creep factor is they aren't selling it to business people or even companies who want it for marketing. So we are blindsided when linkedin sells our personal data to folks they know will use it for inappropriate purposes.

I lost hours running security checks, trying to find the data leak that placed me at risk. Finally, I described the privacy violations in search terms on search engines. The results pointed directly to Linkedin. Their victims' posts led me to sections of Linkedin most people wouldn't know about. There, linkedin check-marked opting me "in" to letting them sell a surprising amount of my personal data.

You hear about "craigslist killers", etc. Linkedin, tries to keep all this bad stuff hidden. But your blog was one of the ones that helped me figure it out. And all the posts here and other places will make it hard for them to pretend they are innocent.

IJ

8 years ago

I found your article today after this happened:

2 contacts from far away countries in different industries were suggested.

1. I had emailed him from my primary e-mail address which has no relation to linked in and is not in my full name. Private gmail with very little data.
2. Emailed this guy about a domain for sale. Same private email that I DO NOT USE OR HAVE LINKED TO LINKEDIN!

As soon as I saw those 2 suggestions my heart dropped. How on earth can they know I know/have made contact with 2 people that have no access to my real name and there is no actual connection. Couple this with the fact that the 2 gmail accounts are not linked (if they are then 1 is a security backup and if this data is available to linkedin then this is a massive issue!). They are not in my gmail contacts for either account! They are in the sent items folder of a completely different almost anonymous e-mail!!!

Any ideas?

Leigh

8 years ago

So - I have a similar thing going on. The email address I use for LinkedIn is *not* my personal email account that I use every day. And it's not related to Google. It's a Yahoo account that I use only to subscribe to things and register on websites. When I saw the "People You May Know" -- they were mostly contacts from my personal email account -- again, not connected to or used with LinkedIn in any way.

It does seem there's something quite creepy going on with LinkedIn -- this is why I hardly ever log into LinkedIn. I never search for people on LinkedIn. The people who show up are people I've never searched on Google, etc. I never email people on the LinkedIn platform. I never imported email contacts (because I have no contacts in the email account I used to register on LinkedIn). Also - nobody I know has this email address for me, so even if they're uploading their own contact lists from their email accounts, the email address they have for me... is one that LinkedIn shouldn't be able to connect to me. Also - there are quite a few that LinkedIn is suggesting I invite to join LinkedIn -- I can't figure out how it's finding these people unless from my private email account.

I thought I was getting paranoid when it crossed my mind that LinkedIn must be getting into my email accounts (even the one I don't use for LinkedIn). it is paranoid, but after reading this post and a lot of the comments, it's clear it's the platform that's making a whole lot of people reasonably paranoid for good cause.

LinkedIn's explanation of their algorithm simply finding people who have "commonalities" is BS. I also don't think it's just people who've looked at my profile or searched for me on LinkedIn. My deceased mother pops up, and we had set up her account long ago and she never once used it - so never looked up me or anybody. We have no commonalities on LinkedIn except for last name.

What I find both hilarious and very disturbing is how recruiters and people in the job search world go on and on about LinkedIn and how it's THE essential platform you MUST be on and actively using because employers want to see your active profile. What is so much more spectacular about seeing my resume posted on LinkedIn versus just seeing my resume? I don't get it -- I think it's a desperate HR/recruiter world that grasped onto LinkedIn as their go-to platform so they can feel totally with the tech age and also, frankly, be lazy.

It seems there's lots of pressure on people to use LinkedIn, but I'm so glad there are posts like this outlining its creepiness. I've never liked their lack of privacy controls/stalker-ish element (for women on LinkedIn). My profile is very bare-bones - no resume, no job history, not even a real photo. But even with a bare-bones profile and an account linked to a junk email, yes, it's definitely the creepiest social network out there.

SM

8 years ago

NEVER use the linkedin app on your smart phone!!!! Delete in immediately.

Even though the privacy states that the app does not access information it has to be. Why do I know this?

1. I have received several emails from people I do not know who have been given my email by people I do know, BUT, I am not linked to on LinkedIn, and also not connected via FB, twitter or any other social media, just email. Apart from a contact email they may as well be one of the 7 billion people in the world I have no connection with at all.

3. Within 24 hours of receiving these emails and using the LinkedIn App the senders appear on my people you might know list.

The LinkedIn App has to be trawling the mail App on the Iphone and matching email addresses to it's own database. If it can do this it must be trawling the Facebook, Gmail Apps etc for the same critical information and whatever else.

Really, really scary stuff.

Doesnt Matter

8 years ago

LinkedIn is using email information.

I have a Facebook account in a false name. That false name is connected to an email address utilising the false name. For all intents and purposes that false name is effectively my online identity and is completely disconnected to my real name. In fact I don't believe I have ever given my actual name to anything related to the internet.

I moved to another country a while back. I have no phone so the internet is my only means of communication. The only people who even know my current, temporary address is the people I rent a room from (nothing suspicious - I'm in the process of looking to purchase a permanent home). In every respect I am completely untraceable to the 'internet' and unknown people. However, my online identity is clearly not.

Last summer I made friends with several foreigners (not actually from the country I live in) who friended me on Facebook. I emailed one of them. He has since joined LinkedIn and I received an email letting me know he'd joined a couple of weeks ago!?! At first I thought nothing of it. It had done the same with an ex-girlfriend, also foreign. And then I questioned how LinkedIn knew that I knew this guy. It prompted me to do a search that led me to this website.

While I may be wrong, I actually don't think LinkedIn is accessing my Facebook friends. The reason being is that I have several hundred (none are actual friends, but connects I've made for a few games that I used to play on Facebook) and to my knowledge LinkedIn has never contacted me about any of them. However, the one friend, and the ex-girlfriend connected on Facebook that were contacted via email using the 'online identity' email address (which isn't a Google one, if that is significant, it's yahoo) were. I have had no email contact with any of these Facebook 'friends'.

What is also interesting is that friends (that I know in person, not online associates/contacts) contact me via an email address that is not connected with my Facebook/LinkedIn name/email address, and LinkedIn has never contacted me about them (although it's highly likely none of them have any connection to LinkedIn). However, another ex-girlfriend, who isn't connected via Facebook, who I have had contact with via that email address is 'known' to be associated with me and when she joined LinkedIn I was promptly emailed by the website and asked "if I know her?".

I have now closed down my LinkedIn account.

I will eventually do the same with my Facebook account. I think I'm long overdue a new online identity.

So in my opinion when you email someone using the address known by LinkedIn THEY WILL KNOW! How, I don't know. It has occurred to me that in this day and age, for privacy and safety for some, an online identity makes a lot of sense.

My recommendation would be to have several email accounts unconnected with each other and spread them across any websites or companies that require such information. I think email accounts need to be treated/and changed as often PIN numbers and passwords, to really be safe from the prying eyes of internet related corporations who are desperate to make a profit out of our internet use.

Andrew Park

8 years ago

This is a pretty old post, but came up because I had an question I could not answer. I interact with a tenant who lives in the house my mother-in-law owns and rents out. We have absolutely no connection professionally or socially and yet he is suggested as a possible contact. HOW? My leading suspicion was that somehow LI was mining my Gmail inbox, but I don't see how.

I do use LI Mobile on my Android phone and I wonder if I gave it permission to mine my contacts on my phone???

I may try adding a new fake contact on my phone and see if they come up as a suggestion.

Aduub

8 years ago

Though some useful, this has been a scam from the beginning. LinkedIn will do anything that is possible to build their numbers in order to keep their stock price up—hasn’t worked too well lately. You need look no further than the requests for phony endorsements they regularly solicit. Our expectations have been way too high. This has never been about you, it has always been about them.

Thomas

8 years ago

You know those spammy emails us unlinked people get? So far I always had an explanation how some wierdo got my address into his address book, which he then surrendered to LinkedIn.

Recently I received an invite from a customer on my work email address, which I ignored. Today our webmaster address gets an invite from someone who happens to also be of Hispanic origin like said customer, but who afaik has nothing to do with us - his title is pretty extensive though. Our webmaster address has never been used or publicized, it's was just routine boredom that I even added that alias. This was the very first email it ever received.

Sam would like to connect ... my ass. 😀

Sandra

7 years ago

I recently met a fellow and gave him only my first name and my cell phone number. A couple of days later, he sent me a request to link on LinkedIn! He said I came up in his app as someone he might know. My cell phone number is NOT in my LinkedIn profile, so I was stumped and creeped out. When I dug into the account, privacy and security sections, I found a place that said I had 2 active sessions including one mobile android session on Chrome. I think that I must have at one time opened LinkedIn through Chrome on my phone, and it took my phone number and connected me to this guy through that. I can't figure out any other explanation.

This fellow doesn't seem creepy to me, but what a shock to know that I'm identifying myself to someone by just giving them my cell number. Very, very creepy, LinkedIn!! I closed the mobile session and clicked something somewhere to deny it using my phone number (even though I never gave it my phone number). I hope that changes things for the future, but I'm not sure.

UnobservedObserver

7 years ago

Linkedin is just the latest in government surveillance tooling - an automated system that generate a authenticated wiring diagram of all know associations for any given individual. Because it's automated and self-authenticating it eliminated the most tedious portion of surveillance and provides an instant list of connections for investigations and roundups. It's actual use is as insidious as the other government surveillance tool - the TOR network.

Nathan

7 years ago

Hi David, thanks (belatedly) for the great article.

Agree with you that they should be more transparent.

To summarise the main sources of 'creepiness'...

1. The LinkedIn app lifts almost everything off your phone. This has been confirmed by LinkedIn.
2. They use your IP address to identify housemates and workmates. This is in the terms of use.
3. Obviously a lot of other people upload their contacts to LinkedIn, and this provides LinkedIn with your mobile, email, etc, even if you haven't provided it. They don't list this information in your profile or downloaded data, but they clearly have it.
4. They buy third-party contact data from contact utilities -- things like Xobni, Lookeen, etc.
5. They buy Google searches.
6. Apparently they lift email contacts from Gmail and other web-based email programs if those windows are open at the same time as a LinkedIn session. It surprises me that this is possible but a lot of people in this thread seem convinced.

I thought I would leave this comment just to see if people see anything interesting now that LinkedIn and Microsoft have merged. I've seen a few PYMK suggestions off a separate Outlook client that weren't there before.

ebguy

7 years ago

A couples years ago. Linkedin's "people you may know" feature suggested I might know a guy I spoke to regularly at my dog park (for over a year), but was only on a first name basis with. I didn't know his last name, email, or phone number, what he did for work or anything like that. We just talked about dogs, and the weather. When linkedin suggested I connect with him I was pretty creeped out.

I think it just based the recommendation on the fact that we work in tangentially related industries, and live in the same area. Still was a little creepy...

Dill Dall

7 years ago

I think it has more to do with IP address and Facebook that comes to your modem. Using the computer in our home to start a Linkedin account, I found it to be creepy before I did the first search or tried to connect to the first name. I don't even use my name in Linkedin. The thing the names had in common were my wife's facebook account people. The names did not have to do with my line of work. So that tells me that it is linked to facebook, even if it is not technically yours. It should not know those personal things that come to my modem, nor should it have been granted to have access to our personal information without my permission.

Kevin

7 years ago

Okay my reason is the creepiest...
there was this girl whom i met once and i only knew her by her phone number. somehow she was shown on the list of people i may know....

i never once emailed her nor save her email... i only contact her through whatsapp service and phone (call)

whats up with that?

Linda

7 years ago

I just noticed my doctor popping up as someone I might know. That is creepy! And I know for sure I did not allow LinkedIn to search my contact list and above all I never e-mailed her.

Did she allow Linkedin acces to the adress database of her office?

Melissa

7 years ago

Everything thing you do on the internet, every website you visit, most emails you read are tracked by multiple tracking companies. They collect all kinds info including name, address, email address, ip address, phone number, financial info, health info, browsing history, cookies, type if device and more, and some claim to track you across all devices. It's crazy, I just found out about it and can not believe it is legal. I downloaded the app Ghostery and use DuckDuckGo as a browser now to keep my browsing private. Ghostery lets you know who is tracking you on each webpage and what data they collect and it also can block them from tracking you. I don't even do anything interesting on the internet but I still value my privacy.
You can also use Protonmail for private emails and Signal for private messaging and to prevent data collection.

Melissa

7 years ago

Also it showed Linkedin always tracking my email as soon as I went into my email. I used linkedin once years ago. Google is the biggest tracker amd collects the most information and data from everyone.

Lindsey

7 years ago

The "people also viewed" thing creeps me out. When I've looked at profiles of people without many connections, suddenly I'm the only person who's ever viewed the profile, and all the "people also viewed" are my own connections - sometimes connections of which I'm their only connection. I remember one time viewing a coworker's profile, which he'd never really set up (I had searched for him by name). After I viewed his profile, left, and came back, his only "people also viewed" were relatives and friends of mine, some sharing my unique last name. So if anyone else from work ever viewed his profile, it would be pretty obvious I had looked at it too, based on the names of the "people also viewed."

This isn't the end of the world, but I search people by name on LinkedIn a lot, such as people I've interviewed with, and often they don't have fully set up profiles, and the chance of my connections showing up in that section is high.

LoadShare

7 years ago

Good People - the explanation is as such.
Most of us allow our email application to "auto-populate" our own phone books (online of mailclient).
LinkedIn READS that phone book and "suggests" them as people you may know. Then once you have connected or sent a connection request you have actually authorised LinkedIn to share info. Up to that point no breach of data has been committed as LinkedIn have not actually used any of your data. They (LinkedIn) are appealing to your sense of stupidity and lure you in to "oh - how easy is this?".
THERE IS NO OTHER WAY LINKEDIN CAN KNOW ABOUT PEOPLE I HAVE ONLY HAD EMAIL INTERACTION WITH and are not actually friends, or on any of my social media accounts or anything else.
Lets all disable the "autopopulate" email addresses to our phone book.

Tony

7 years ago

is it possible for a person to be added to my connections without my permission? I have a few.female.connections that I don't know but somehow are on my list as contacts.Someone please.help on this. it causing problems.

Ryan

6 years ago

I just sat next to someone at a professional baseball game last night. I had a few short conversations with this person. I did not get this person's name or anything. I do not know this person or have any reason to know this person - complete and total stranger. This morning, the second person in the people you may know section has a glaring resemblance to the person I sat next to last night at the baseball game.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but this needs to be investigated...

Phillip

6 years ago

Does anybody know why Linkedin recommends the same person over and over again? Is this related to searching of some party?

Melodie

5 years ago

I’m glad to read a article talking about the privacy issue that LinkedIn brings to people. And I have a similar issue like you. After coming back to China, I barely use my gmail, not to mention Facebook or Twitter. Most people around me probably have’t registered them yet. However, my new roommate who moved in several days ago told me that he found my name under “People You May Know” on LinkedIn. We haven’t exchanged our phone number or email address, and the only connection we have is Wechat, the Chinese WhatsApp. We totally freaked out. Also, he told me he had never done any research about me online. I guess now LinkedIn becomes the biggest threat...

David Veldt

5 years ago

Hi Melodie,
If your new roommate saw you under "People You May Know" after they moved in, it might be because you two were connected to the same network/same IP address. Therefore, LinkedIn figures two people on the same network must know each other.
Or, if either of you had saved the other as a contact in your phone, and somewhere along the line allowed LinkedIn to automatically sync your contacts. LinkedIn is pretty tricky about this and you might not know you allowed them to do so. I accidentally did it years ago, was able to unsync, and have since almost accidentally clicked to do it again a few times.

Jeremy

4 years ago

Of all the social media sites, I find LinkedIn to be the most similar to the Six Degrees of Separation concept. It's wild how far their 'People you may know' reach is. The list of potential contacts is basically neverending and it is so vast that the amount of analytics they have at their disposal is mind-blowing. Facebook is always under scrutiny about its privacy policy and 3rd party data sharing, but one has to wonder if Linkedin is flying under the radar because it's framed as a site for professionals. This article is surprisingly very relevant 7 years later. Good write-up.

Kent Hu

4 years ago

Hi,

I was wondering, if someone comes up as a suggestion on people you may know and I remove the suggestion by clicking the X next to their name, will I be removed as a suggestion from their people you may know as well? Just wondering if anyone know the answer to this.

Thank you.

Sally

4 years ago

We have made the same experiences.

some time ago I googled some random Chinese and Indian names, like “wang”, “Srinivasan” or “Parashurama”. and although I don’t know anybody with such names and don’t have them in may mail account, Linkedin would suggest me people with such names in my area a few days after.
so, there is definitely a way Linkedin uses members’ (google) search history to suggest people you may know… It's very creepy indeed.