The Anonymous Problem On LinkedIn

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Anonymous browsing. Some of us have probably done it. There are lots of reasons for doing it. But when it happens to us, we generally don’t like it. Some LinkedIn users equate it with stalking and who are we to say otherwise? LinkedIn aren’t sure what to do about it… and it shows.

 

In Feb. LinkedIn introduced “Member Blocking”

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“Member Blocking” really isn’t much of a solution to stalking. Though you can block any other LinkedIn user (up to a maximum of 50), you won’t be able to block your Anonymous stalker because….they’re Anonymous. So if you think you know who your stalker is, go ahead and block them but if they’re determined enough, they’ll probably just find another way – perhaps by setting up another, or a fake, LinkedIn account. You’ll note that Paul Rockwell recommends that before you go on your Member Block mission, it should be covert; you should “enable anonymous profile viewing” ! Oh the irony of it….

 

How LinkedIn have implemented Member Blocking is less than ideal. You actually need to visit the person’s (or alleged offender’s) Profile and then click on a drop-down menu to ‘Block or report’.

 

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We should be able to block a member by simply adding their name, separated by a comma, in a box, in our Settings. Changing our status to Anonymous, visiting  someone’s Profile, blocking them and then changing our status back to non-Anonymous, is kind of ridiculous.

 

The option most people who care about this issue want is to be able to prevent Anonymous browsing on their Profile, period. I think it’s important to provide that choice. I also think the main reason that we are not currently able to block Anonymous browsers is because LinkedIn wants to keep their big customers happy. Many of those Anonymous browsers are Recruiters. Recruiters are looking for a needle in a haystack, the last thing they want is for everyone in the haystack to start jumping up and down, shouting “Hey, why are you looking at me?” or “I can be your needle!” Why do Recruiters have to land on our Profile at all? Surely there’s another, less intrusive way for them to get or see our data?

 

LinkedIn should fix the Anonymous browsing issue for another reason – Anonymous browsing data renders a potentially useful part of the LinkedIn site, pointless. I’m referring to the stats making up your Profile Views in the ‘Who’s viewed your profile’ section.

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I’m sorry, but telling me that 636 of my 769 Viewers are ‘Other’ (452) or ‘Unknown’ (184) is wasting 83% of my time!

 

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By Andy Foote

 

 

 

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32 Responses

  1. Hugh says:

    I enjoyed reading this piece. I think your viewpoint is spot on. Thanks for the read…

  2. Jez says:

    The anonymous views within LinkedIn debate is interesting. Given that you can view a persons Linkedin profile via a google search…without going in to LinkedIn…what exactly do people think will happen if LinkedIn block this feature within the site itself? Are people going to start demanding the search engines send them a report of every person out there that views a web page that they are listed/mentioned on?

    There are a lot of paranoid people out there.

    As you mention in the post most of the anon views are from recruiters…who drive the lion’s share of revenue for LinkedIn.

    • Andy Foote says:

      Great question Jez. A couple of things – though it’s true that Google (and other search engines) index and show your LinkedIn Profile, it’s not your full Profile AND you can actually turn it off (prevent Google from seeing & showing it) in your Settings. So you can in fact stop people (Anonymous or otherwise) from viewing your Profile from the web. So it does seem odd then that LinkedIn provides this external option but won’t give users any control over viewers within their platform.

      I don’t see it as paranoia; I think people feel a range of emotions when someone puts a mask on before coming into their shop. I don’t think we should be dismissive of people who feel they are being ‘stalked’, that’s a very real problem for many people, which Member Blocking fails to address. I personally regard all the actions caused by Anonymous and Semi-Anonymous activity as ‘spam’ – it is unnecessary (and preventable) noise which makes LinkedIn less useful, less engaging, less social.

      Of course there is no proof that Recruiters are the folks putting on the mask, but that’s the only reason I can think of which explains LinkedIn’s apparent unwillingness to do anything about it.

      • matt says:

        Doesn’t seem odd to me. If you view someone’s profile information from Google or another source LinkedIn doesn’t get credit for that web traffic so they have an incentive to allow you to block that. If, however, you block anons from seeing you, well as you said, recruiters won’t pay extra for a premium account.

  3. Neil says:

    Hello Andy

    I have read your article with interest, and as a recruiter, I find the whole anonymous issue somewhat frustrating. I have raised this issue with LinkedIn many times as I want the right to block anonymous viewers and I certainly don’t use that feature myself

    As a recruiter, I want people to see me and my details, plus the fact I have taken an interest in them

    I am very specific in my searching so I am hoping key individuals will not mind me looking at their details. I am completely open and visible – it is a networking site after all

    many thanks, Neil

  4. Kim BR says:

    I am one of those individuals suffering from not knowing who is reading my profile — have been out of work for 16 months — do my research on LinkedIn to check out people who are interviewing me prior to interview — and if they can see I am doing that (expected) — why can’t I see which people who interviewed me checked out my profile — before or after? I don’t hide behind anonymous for my research; why should others be allowed to do that? Right up there with the recruiters being favored.

  5. Jon Green says:

    I’d like to present an alternative point of view, if I may. I do have anonymous browsing on by default, and it’s not because I’m a stalker.

    I’m a CxO in the technology sector. I get several connect requests per week, mostly from people whose names I simply don’t recognise, and most of them have the boiler-plate contact message, so no clues there.

    Now, by and large, I’m not interested in being “sold at”, particularly by outsourcing companies, something that’s made clear on my Profile. My LI Profile is a kind of Rolodex for me, and 85% or more of the (500+) people there I’ve met and/or done business with. The rest, I’d be interested in working with at some point. I like to keep it that way: no chaff; all wheat.

    Rather than turn down connect requests flat, I want to check their profiles first, and see whether either I’ve met them, or they’re doing something that might be mutually beneficial.

    And this leads to a problem. Simply not responding to a contact request is common, and accepted. Looking at the profile, and then not responding is, frankly, a bit of a rebuff. So I stay anon whilst I find out whether the person’s either someone I know or want to know. It’s not to protect me (although I suppose there’s a small risk of stalking), it’s to protect the feelings of the contactor.

    I don’t know; maybe I’m just a bit too English. 🙂

    • Andy Foote says:

      I wouldn’t consider that an alternative point of view Jon – I see it as a great reason to be Anonymous when you browse other Profiles. You simply don’t want to raise expectations or as you say, seem like you are rebuffing. That’s fine in my book and I applaud that you are being considerate.

      I’d like LinkedIn to give all users the option to block Anonymous viewers. If we got that option and I had the block turned on for my Profile and you tried to view me anonymously, you wouldn’t be able to view me (and I wouldn’t get a useless notification). Doing a google search on the person’s name will usually show the person’s public version of their LinkedIn Profile. This does not result in any notification to the Profile owner that they have been viewed (and the LinkedIn user can turn this public version off, if they wanted). This method of due diligence would be a good alternative for you.

      I’m a Brit, by the way 🙂
      Cheers,
      A

  6. BiG PHiL says:

    “Profitability through inconvenient privacy” -BiG PHiL (I’m well known for self-quotes)
    Thanks Andy,
    I appreciate your candor. There is a popular trend online to trade privacy for proper functionality. It’s not, a bit, odd.
    I’m hoping that as the trend is recognised, it will become less popular, and end.
    Your article saved me a lot of time.
    I learned that this is not a situation where a workaround is satisfactory. Someone is going to have to ‘William Wallace’ the profitability of inconvenient privacy.
    My choice for now:
    a) accept unwanted anonymous views, and enjoy the other benefits of LinkedIn
    or b) remove my information from LinkedIn

  7. James says:

    Agree. I would like to block all “Anonymous” viewers. If they are not willing to divulge who they are they have no business seeing who I am.

  8. Dimmiti Kostic says:

    I am not happy seeing anonymous members checking my profile. If they are cowards enough to show who they are, they shouldn’t be using these services This is big privacy issue!.I need to know how to block them.
    If I see anonymous person checking me one more time, I will immediately stop using Linkedin.

  9. Karmen says:

    Hi, thank you so much for this article, I was just looking for an option (in vain) to block annonymous viewing, and ended up sending a complaint message to Linked In. When one gets an annonymous view every couple of months it does equal stalking or spying on. And its hardly fair that anyone can view my profile annonymously when I cant stop it from happening. And no, I wouldn’t go anonymous to block a person that is uber lame. I am seriously considering removing my profile, I dont need this **** in my life.

    • Fred Bloggs says:

      So that’s the three previous contributors all planning to remove there profile……

      its a bit irrelevant really since everyone with a linked in profile can view all other members; I’m able to view the profile of the above peeps because I’m not anonymous – I’m Fred. Well actually, I’m not Fred, I just created that profile to prove the point. I shall of course be ticking the “I’m a real person” box.

      I ditched my facebook account due to lack of control, and facebook is 100’s times better that linked in when it comes to privacy. Why should my ex be able to see what my current job is, or come to that, what if I don’t want a previous boss to know who I went to work for after leaving ?

      I wouldn’t be hard for linked-in to categorise companies – if a Co. was a recruitment agent, thats easily verified, and I could have a setting that only allowed profile views by people who work for Co’s in the recruitment sector; so on and so forth.

      I too think that leaving is the only real option, except that job hunting requires a LinkedIn profile.

      • Karmen says:

        hahah thats a good one, that job hunting requires a lin profile? nope its only an AID to fnding a job. 😉

      • LinkedIn is now worthless to members. It is a giant blog for writer expert wannabees at best, and it includes a high number of fakes, and disingenuous people exploiting our your information for their own needs. the company will fail. It was great at first. It has lost its way. I am sure of it and many close colleagues agree. It has achieved irrelevant status very rapidly by ignoring “respect’ for the individual. Remarkable the best LinkedIn customers have faded away. If I am approached by one more fake from the Dark continent under 20 years old, I will disconnect. FB is a joke, to me, and these LI guys are brazen and sell the cap to Wall Street as bona fide customers

  10. Jon Green says:

    Extending my previous comments, and in light of some of the more concerned comments since, let me ask:

    1. Who has viewed your Facebook profile this week? (Yes, you can control who can see it, to an extent.)

    2. Who has viewed your Twitter profile this week? Or your Twitter messages?

    Now ask yourself: if I don’t (and can’t) know these things on other social media sites, why am I so concerned about LinkedIn? I’m not posting about my drunken sexual antics on LinkedIn. I’m not writing expletive-filled diatribes on LinkedIn about my favourite sporting team’s mortal enemies. Friends aren’t posting photos on LinkedIn, tagged with my name, showing me unconscious in an empty bath, covered in makeup they drew on my face (and other parts) after _that_ party.

    But these things might be elsewhere – and you’ve no idea who’s seen them. Depending on the network, you may have no control at all on who can see them, either, if you didn’t post them yourself. And they’re quite possibly visible to recruiters and prospective colleagues. Don’t pretend for one moment that they don’t research on networks other than LinkedIn.

    “On the internet, no-one knows you’re a dog.” Well, a German Shepherd just looked you up on Twitter, you’ve no way of telling, and they just saw _all_ you did last week.

    In that context, what’s the worry about LinkedIn?

    • Karmen says:

      LinkedIn is supposed to be a grown up place with people who are professionals meeting other professionals not a playground for dorks and people who have nothing else to do but to stalk other people annonymously. THAT being said, I jsut came up with an idea that LI should remove this feature entirely. The info I put out publicly is not intended to be hidden (duh), but I dont want to be creep stalked either. And if someone poses as sb else, well, their problem! They will not accomplish much here that way.. -.-

  11. Shruti Jain says:

    As you have mentioned about fake profile and stalking, I believe that the policies should be strict enough to only allow legitimate users to be on LinkedIn. I have come across so many profiles with 0/1/2 connections, which indicates to me that either the users haven’t created the profiles for connecting with others (which is the underlying concept of LinkedIn) or the users are fake. I have a suggestion, but am sure you people are better to judge this. The LinkedIn profiles with less than 10 connections (or so), should be deactivated/disabled. The new profiles should be given a time period of 1-2 weeks for creating the connections, and still if they don’t have the minimum number I believe those should be deactivated. Also, if this rule is implemented, I am sure the fake profile users will create 10 profiles or so and link to each other, so there should be some check for deactivating these users with cyclic connections. Thanks!

  12. Name withheld says:

    I too think this article is spot on. While I take a number of the points others have shared here, I offer a different reason for stronger privacy settings in LinkedIn.

    For over four years my ex has stalked, harassed and abused me. While his persistence has resulted in a criminal conviction and fine with no jail time, I am forced into constant vigilance for my safety. As a vague user of LinkedIn, my account sat idle for a long time. I hadn’t initially connected it as a method for him to track where I am. Although there was very little in my profile, there was just enough. Further, some of the automatic settings including how contacts and networks operate, still gave too much away.

    Out of the blue I began receiving emails from LinkedIn when my profile had been viewed. On investigation I discovered the views were 99% anonymous and I spent hours increasing the available privacy settings and trying to work out how to avoid being searched for. I concluded (perhaps erroneously) that it wasn’t possible. I attempted to list him as a blocked person but without being connected in the first place, I couldn’t.

    I had been hoping to ‘get with the times’ and learn to use LinkedIn properly to assist in job hunting. Instead I could see no other way to manage other than to completely shut down my account. At least with facebook, even though I had to unfriend our few mutual connections, I could block him, not be displayed in searches and avoid being in any groups. But when a supposedly more important tool, marketed to facilitate and connect professional networks, doesn’t allow for properly managing privacy, it leaves people like me open to risk, with the only option that I’m aware of, being forced to have to exclude myself.

    So whether the user reason for privacy management and some transparency is as simple as common courtesy or a serious personal security problem such as mine, any online application offering that encourages people to publish their personal information, should contain a minimum standard of privacy offerings.

    Thanks Andy Foote for a great article.

  13. Greg Basham says:

    I have just reported a Linkedin member who has his third fake profile here and today when the CEO of his firm called me I found I couldn’t bring his profile up.

    Linkedin is bad enough with fakes let alone having someone able to block you from seeing a public profile.

    As it is Linkedin should require photos – but they don’t.

    • Fred Blogg says:

      ………and how would you know it was the right photo ? We can’t even be sure its the right name !

      • Greg Basham says:

        Fred Blogg – You are right that photos can be – and are at times – fake but I know from the details of the resume listed etc that it is the same persons and he is still using the same photo.

        This problem person will be soon be dealt with by the employer who I contacted subsequently and it appears in the case that he faked more than his background but faked the checks of employment.

        But if your point is that you can’t rely on a photo – you are right.

  14. Jenna says:

    Thanks Andy for the insightful post. Tonight I was trying to figure out how to block anonymous viewers. I’m a bit on both ends of this debate. As a Recruiter and HR Manager, I very much appreciate the ability to view profiles anonymously for a couple of reasons. The first being that I don’t want to get an applicant’s hopes up simply by viewing their profile. I’d like to review their experience and qualifications privately before deciding whether or not to reach out to them further. Additionally, I don’t have enough time to dedicate to responding to every single candidate who is eager to inquire about my review of their profile. I also wouldn’t have a problem with an option where members can choose NOT to be viewed anonymously. That would give me the choice as to whether or not I’m going to forfeit my anonymity in exchange of being able to view their profile. I think that’s fair enough.

    Secondly, being an HR Manager as well as a Guardian ad Litem contracted both with the county and state where I live, I’m often times not everyone’s most favorite person (I know, hard to believe right??) – as a lot of my job responsibilities include conducting comprehensive investigations, administering random drug tests, conflict resolution, taking corrective action, terminations, making recommendations to the court regarding parenting plans, etc. And with those responsibilities, you just can’t make everyone happy. As much as I try to always conduct business on a positive note, and do my best to identify the best possible outcome for all parties involved, it’s not uncommon for people to be upset with me when they are dissatisfied with the outcome. And whether their reasoning is rational or not, I simply have no control over their actions.

    Working in the employment and legal fields can be risky, very dangerous at times, even – especially when handling sensitive situations with the occasional individual who is dangerous, has a documented history of violence and/or substance abuse, or happens to be a registered sex offender. Not only do I have to carry pepper spray out to my car at night and worry about being followed home, but I also worry about the “anonymous” viewers who view my profile on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. Especially since I never post anything on my linked in account. It would be nice if I could identify who these anonymous people are, just in case they happen to be someone who pose an immediate threat to me or my family. It would help me identify any real risks to my safety and grant me the ability to document repetitive profile views that may be malicious in nature, which would greatly assist in establishing a case of harassment, stalking, or otherwise, in a court of law. Not only would I be able to identify and block the stalker/harasser, but I would also be able to use that information to assist in obtaining an anti-harassment order, no contact order, etc. through legal means. This sort of thing never used to bother me until I had children – I’m not only having to look out for myself, but my children too. And with the industries I work in, stalking and harassment are very real problems.

    I think some of these comments from your readers offer great insights on how to improve the privacy settings of Linked In. As members, we should be able to determine whether or not we want to allow anonymous viewers. And in exchange, those anonymous viewers can choose to exchange anonymity for the opportunity to view the profile they want without hiding from the notifications. Additionally, recruiters could categorize as recruiters, which would allow members to determine what “categories” of linked in users they will allow to be anonymous.

    As far as verification goes – for verifying identity, minimizing the occurrence of fake linked in accounts, fake profile pictures, etc. – it seems as though technology has already addressed these issues by way of “verifying” an account. Similar to how “snapchat” and “whats app” require you to receive a verification code via text, phone call, email, etc. It seems as though linked in could utilize similar technology to “verify” accounts for added security purposes.

    Please share your thoughts if you have any feedback! Great read – I look forward to reading more! 🙂

    • Andy Foote says:

      Thanks for adding your voice and experience to the conversation Jenna. LinkedIn stopped using “anonymous browsing” and replaced it with “private browsing” some time this year. They did this, I think to try to get away from the negativity of the word ‘anonymous’ and to underline the fact that they believe in privacy (when browsing) as a right on the LinkedIn platform. I’ve used anonymity to browse but it has never been an essential feature for me. If anonymity went away, it wouldn’t affect how I use LinkedIn. I think LinkedIn could solve many of the issues related to anonymous (private) browsing by getting rid of it as a browsing option and forcing members to use the semi-anonymous alternative. Instead of being browsed by a cipher, you would see that you’ve been browsed by someone from ‘X region in Y industry with Z title’. This would give recruiters the cover required and people would generally feel less stalked and more in control. If you think you know who your stalker is, you can make an intelligent guess, based on the semi-anonymous data provided and block ’em. LinkedIn is in love with 50. 50 Skill slots. The 50 group membership limit was recently doubled. The 50 block limit should also be doubled.

    • Christopher says:

      Yes, but none of these ideas will work because a fake profile is just that … a fake profile.

      At the end of the day, I only want to be “found” when job hunting, and then only by “recruitment agencies”. When an organization registers with linkedin, presumable they identify which market sector they are in. If someone lists themselves as working for a company in that sector, and I was able to specify that only individual registered to companies in a given market sector operating in (say) the uk had view right to my profile, wouldn’t that be great.

      In the meantime, I get around this problem by cutting my profile write-up, saving it offline and replacing it with a null profile. As my contract comes to an end, I’ll switch profiles back …. but only while I’m looking.

      Not ideal, but better than having my life history trawled by trolls

      • Christopher says:

        …….. and companies with profiles which have no doubt paid linked-in would no doubt not want frauds who didn’t work for them saying they did, so you could add a further layer of verification by saying that an individual claiming to work for company X must have maybe x5 recommendations by people who already work at said company, making it all but impossible (ok, eminently possible, just hard work) to create fake profiles with fake viewing rights

  15. Steve says:

    More than two years since the original article discussing this issue and there is still no solution in sight. The issue is also worse than ever. LinkedIn is supposed to be a professional networking site, not a information/identity resource for stalkers and marketers.

    Here is a thought; starting on Jan 1st 2017, and throughout the year, every LinkedIn member should enable Private Mode viewing. If all viewing activity was anonymous the viewing data would be meaningless and more importantly useless. People do not use services with useless/meaningless data. LinkedIn would either have to address the issue of anonymous private mode views, or a competitor would emerge to offer what LinkedIn refuses to.

    Alternately, everyone could remove all personal/employment data from their profile and replace it with a simple message stating that we are boycotting LinkedIn until they address the privacy/anonymity issue. Once again, no data in the profiles means that the site is useless/meaningless, and if LinkedIn wants to exist, they will address the private mode view issue.

    Simply whining about an issue solves nothing. The fact that two years have passed and nothing has changed is a perfect indicator of this. Real change will only happen if we, as users of the LinkedIn service, band together and make a stand.

    • Roberta says:

      Absolutely agree. The private mode option is meaningless and really, it only benefit stalkers. I work for a recruitment company and check people’s profile’s daily without having to hide my identity. I have never once been questioned as to “WHY” I am looking into people’s profile – I think it’s obvious: If I work in recruitment, I am just a recruiter checking your professional experience.
      Like you said: “LinkedIn is supposed to be a professional networking site, not a information/identity resource for stalkers and marketers”

  1. April 24, 2016

    […] The tools I shared in step two will help you in banning fake profiles from Twitter and Instagram. Blocking a fake connection on LinkedIn is similar to reporting them. The limitation is you can only block a maximum of 50 users. […]

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