Sep 30th 2013

Delinking from LinkedIn

by Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is a music critic with particular interest in piano. 

Johnson worked as a reporter and editor in New York, Moscow, Paris and London over his journalism career. He covered European technology for Business Week for five years, and served nine years as chief editor of International Management magazine and was chief editor of the French technology weekly 01 Informatique. He also spent four years as Moscow correspondent of The Associated Press. He is the author of five books.

Michael Johnson is based in Bordeaux. Besides English and French he is also fluent in Russian.

You can order Michael Johnson's most recent book, a bilingual book, French and English, with drawings by Johnson:

“Portraitures and caricatures:  Conductors, Pianist, Composers”

 here.

As the NSA phone records scandal recedes in the public consciousness, private marketers are quietly invading our computer systems in their own intrusive ways, enabled by a sea of floating data around social networks and related sites.

Taken together, privacy in America has never been more in play. Now a backlash is brewing.

Companies such as LinkedIn, the dominant job-hunters’ and networking site, are expert at taking private email addresses and sending “invitations” to third parties using borrowed identities. To attract recipients’ attention, most of these emails arrive with email “sent” addresses of friends, colleagues, or contacts data-mined from the user’s mailbox. President Obama, who spoke at a jobs-related Town Hall meeting sponsored by LinkedIn, seemed blissfully unaware of the gathering storm around the company.

Facebook, equally powerful, is more cautious with member data but still manages to spam the world on a regular basis. I receive Facebook emails almost every day asking whether I know several people. Zap, zap, and zap is my response.

Other companies sell their Internet email savvy to smaller businesses such vitamin marketers or self-published books, then broadcast emails naming a specific friend who “recommends” the product. The friend is of course not in the loop.

A software executive of my acquaintance said in answer to my queries last week, “Social networks are a freight train and there is no driver.”

Drivers may be slowly surfacing, however. Now the courts are being asked to get involved. Four outraged web users are suing LinkedIn for what they call LinkedIn’s “hacking” practices to obtain friends’ or contacts’ email addresses. A selection of these addresses will then receive invitations seemingly sent by or on behalf of the hacking victim. “The hacking of the users’ email accounts and downloading of all email addresses associated with that user’s account is done without clearly notifying the user or obtaining his or her consent,” the complaint alleges. The suit, which the complainants hope to develop into a class action, was launched by a former New York Times advertising executive, a statistics professor, a former vice president of Morgan Creek films, and a San Francisco lawyer.

LinkedIn spokesman Doug Madey responded with an official rejection of the terms of the suit. “We believe that the legal claims in this lawsuit are without merit, and we intend to fight it vigorously,” he said.

LinkedIn uses “permission marketing” techniques, a procedure that requires the user’s okay to send or receive the email. The confusion arises when the user has unwittingly given what LinkedIn considers to be “permission.” The language on the LinkedIn signup can be confusing to a new user. The approach is often couched in friendly tones, as in a happy announcement for a new API (application programming interface) “so-new-it’s-still-got-the-plastic-film-on-it.”

“LinkedIn’s accessing of email addresses far exceeds the authority and consent to which LinkedIn users provide,” the suit alleges. “LinkedIn does not inform its users that each email address appropriated from a user’s external email account will be sent multiple emails inviting the recipient to join LinkedIn with the user’s endorsement.”

After I enrolled in LinkedIn, I was offered a list of 98 people, most from my address book, who are LinkedIn members and were considered potential users to link up with me. I read the instructions carefully and avoided triggering a major spam event. A further 88 were people not participating in LinkedIn’s business. That list is headed with a cheery “Why not invite these people not yet on LinkedIn?” One of the addresses was for a friend who died two years ago. Several others were company addresses, not people.

While some users derive benefit from professional networks, blogs are alive with complaints of spam and clutter that use personal identities unbeknownst to the “sender.” Such identity borrowing, if not outright theft, is at the root of these trends.

As a Forbes online writer recently put it: “Do you get LinkedIn connection requests from people you have never met or don’t know at all? For me, at least, those kinds of notifications far outnumber requests from people I actually do know well.”

Wrote one blogger, “I can’t see the value of ad-hoc connections on LinkedIn. People you’d be interested in professionally but don’t know will likely (or should) have some other way to reach them.… If they don’t, they likely don’t want to be contacted by strangers anyway.”

In my case, my name was used in contacts with a nationally known cartoonist I had corresponded with twice but never met, and with my next-door neighbor, both of whom responded in good faith with a “yes.” Bingo – LinkedIn had two more “connections” and I had to apologize twice for trespassing. In the other direction, two women I had long since lost touch with “invited” me into their pages. At first I thought, “Hmmmmm.” Then I twigged, as the Brits say, and did not respond. They have since denied to me that they had any knowledge of the invitations or the multiple reminder followups.

My favorite LinkedIn story concerns a working girl who went ballistic when her boss received a phony invitation allegedly sent by her. The implication was that she was job-hunting and asking her own supervisor to lend a hand.

Something is going right for this company, now celebrating its tenth anniversary and growing apace. No doubt the current extended period of high unemployment has forced millions into startup consultancies for the first time, and LinkedIn provides a free service to announce services. Some 225 million users worldwide are registered with the firm.

First quarter revenues this year hit $324.7 million, up 72 percent over the same period last year. LinkedIn is forecasting a banner year for 2013, with revenues projected at or around $1.4 billion. It has recently rolled out a new facility that allows LinkedIn users to open up a page showing who has been looking at their information.

They are standing by their mantra, “Your professional network of trusted connections.”

They may want to work on that.

Originally published on The American Spectator, posted here with their and the author’s kind permission. To proceed to The American Spectator please click here.

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Feb 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "Beyond the usual economic and policy risks that most financial analysts worry about, a number of potentially seismic white swans are visible on the horizon this year. Any of them could trigger severe economic, financial, political, and geopolitical disturbances unlike anything since the 2008 crisis."
Feb 18th 2020
Extract: "In late 2019, Zogby Research Services (ZRS) once again had the opportunity to poll public opinion across the Middle East and North Africa about many of these issues that are of such critical concern to the region and its peoples..............One of the more intriguing results in our 2019 survey were the changes in Arab views toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most Arabs still blame the US and Israel for the absence of peace and have little confidence that the conflict can be resolved in the near future. Maybe as a result of this despair, this issue now ranks low as an Arab priority. Also noteworthy is the fact that majorities in most Arab countries now say that normalization with Israel, which they acknowledge is already happening, may be a good thing. This development shouldn’t be overstated, however, since there is still no love for Israel. It appears, from our survey, to be born of frustration, weariness with Palestinians being victims of war, and the possibility that normalization might bring some economic benefits and could give Arabs leverage to press Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians."
Feb 15th 2020
EXTRACT: "Global dissatisfaction with democracy has increased over the past 25 years, according to our recent report. Drawing upon the HUMAN Surveys project, the report covered 154 countries, with 77 countries covered continuously for the period from 1995 to 2020. These samples were possible thanks to the combination of data from over 25 sources, 3,500 national surveys, and 4 million respondents. Not surprisingly, the gloomy headline finding – rising democratic dissatisfaction – attracted the most attention. Less widely discussed, however, is the “good news” – that a small sample of countries has bucked the trend, and have record high levels of satisfaction with their democracies."
Feb 14th 2020
EXTRACT: "This is how dictatorships begin. As the US prepares for its next presidential election in November, it is every citizen’s responsibility rationally to examine Trump’s dictatorial impulses, which reelection would only reinforce. It is not safe to assume that he won’t go too far, or that he is too much of a “mediocrity” – as Leon Trotsky called Stalin (an assessment with which many Bolsheviks agreed) – to transform his country......Vladimir Lenin, himself a ruthless Bolshevik, wrote in 1922 that, “Stalin concentrated in his hands enormous power, which he won’t be able to use responsibly,” owing to traits like rudeness, intolerance, and capriciousness. Trump has all of them in spades. The more power he concentrates in his own hands, the dimmer the long-term outlook for American democracy becomes. His reelection could mean lights out."
Feb 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "Does this mean that the dream of European unity is over? Does the exodus of a member state obliterate the vision of Victor Hugo and Václav Havel? Does Europe now fit the description of what the great American president Abraham Lincoln called a house divided against itself? Not necessarily. History is more imaginative than we are. The EU still has the option of keeping Britain close in heart and mind. We can still benefit from our absent partner, by resurrecting the partnership through our actions."
Feb 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "There, no formal change from a republican system to an autocratic system ever occurred. Rather, there was an erosion of the republican institutions, a steady creep over decades of authoritarian decision-making, and the consolidation of power within one individual – all with the name “Republic” preserved.........Will the GOP-led Senate’s endorsement of this defense clear a path for more of the manifestations – and consequences – of authoritarianism? The case of the Roman Republic’s rapid slippage into an autocratic regime masquerading as a republic shows how easily that transformation can occur."
Feb 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "So all that is why Cramer is talking about the death knell of petroleum stocks. We probably agree on almost nothing else, but when people are right, you have to give them credit. He is right."
Feb 3rd 2020
EXTRACT: "........as the citizens of the remaining 27 states have observed the destabilising impact that the referendum decision has had on British politics, they have been inoculated against the desire to secede from the EU. Outside the UK, national-populist parties have moderated their anti-EU rhetoric and nowadays profess to want to change the EU from within instead of destroying it."
Feb 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Senators will soon decide whether to dismiss the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump without hearing any witnesses. In making this decision, I believe they should consider words spoken at the Constitutional Convention, when the Founders decided that an impeachment process was needed to provide a “regular examination,” to quote Benjamin Franklin. A critical debate took place on July 20, 1787, which resulted in adding the impeachment clause to the U.S. Constitution. Franklin, the oldest and probably wisest delegate at the Constitutional Convention, said that when the president falls under suspicion, a “regular and peaceable inquiry” is needed."
Feb 1st 2020
EXTRACT: "Britain will be celebrating its glorious independence from the complications of international cooperation at a time when the intellectual, political, and economic hostility between China’s communist leadership and liberal democracies is becoming ever clearer. If liberal democracy is to survive, it must stand up for itself. And we should be under no illusion: open societies under the rule of law, from the Americas to Europe, Africa, and Asia, are in China’s hostile sights. The West should not aim to encircle or pen in China. But liberal democracies cannot allow it to distort international norms in its own favor."
Jan 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Switzerland and Denmark have gone furthest into negative territory, both offering unprecedentedly low rates of -0.75%. The Swiss National Bank, which has kept its rate at this level since 2015, signalled recently that it intends to stick with this experiment and is not ruling out going even more negative. It has said that negative rates were boosting the economy and that the country’s fundamentals were not being significantly affected."
Jan 28th 2020
EXTRACT: "Electricity will dominate the future global energy system. Currently, it accounts for only 20% of final energy demand,......Without assuming any fundamental technological breakthroughs, we could certainly build by 2050 a global economy in which electricity met 65-70% of final energy demand,....."
Jan 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "With the world economy operating dangerously close to stall speed, the confluence of ever-present shocks and a sharply diminished trade cushion raises serious questions about financial markets’ increasingly optimistic view of global economic prospects."
Jan 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "Gibson’s diagnosis is supported by international attitude surveys. One found that most Americans rarely think about the future and only a few think about the distant future. When they are forced to think about it, they don’t like what they see. Another poll by the Pew Research Centre found that 44% of Americans were pessimistic about what lies ahead. But pessimism about the future isn’t just limited to the US. One international poll of over 400,000 people from 26 countries found that people in developed countries tended to think that the lives of today’s children will be worse than their own. And a 2015 international survey by YouGov found that people in developed countries were particularly pessimistic. For instance, only 4% of people in Britain thought things were improving. This contrasted with 41% of Chinese people who thought things were getting better."
Jan 24th 2020
EXTRACT: "........while over 80% of the ECB scheme buys government and other public sector bonds, a huge chunk still goes into corporate bonds and other assets. At the time of writing, the ECB holds €263 billion worth of corporate bonds – a very significant amount in relation to individual firms and the sectors in question. According to the ECB, 29% of these bonds were issued by French firms, 25% by German firms and 11% each by Spanish and Italian firms. As at September 2017, the sectors they came from included utilities (16%), infrastructure (12%), automotive (10%) and energy (7%)."
Jan 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, cars are increasingly like “smartphones on wheels”, so manufacturers need to have access to the latest patented 4G and 5G technologies essential to navigation and communications. But often the companies that hold the patents are reluctant to license them because manufacturers will not accept the high fees involved, which leads to patent disputes and licensing rows."
Jan 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Recent polling from Pew Research demonstrates how the public’s attitudes toward the US and President Trump have witnessed sharp declines in many nations across the world. In Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East favorable attitudes toward the US went from lows during the years of George W. Bush’s presidency to highs in the early Obama years to lows, once again, in the Trump era. And in our Zogby Research Services (ZRS) polling we found, with a few exceptions, much the same trajectory across the Middle East."
Jan 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "In the absence of a declaration of war against Iran, the killing of a foreign official – by a drone strike on Iraqi territory – was possibly illegal. But such niceties do not perturb Trump. The evidence is that Trump’s decision was taken without consideration of the possible consequences. The national security system established under Dwight D. Eisenhower, designed to prevent such reckless measures, is broken to non-existent, with ever-greater power placed in the hands of the president. If that president is unstable, the entire world has a very serious problem."
Jan 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "It is possible that Trump’s reverential base won’t be sufficient to keep him in the White House past 2020. But such ardent faith is hard to oppose with rational plans to fix this or that problem. That is why it is so unsettling to hear people at the top of the US government speak about politics in terms that rightly belong in church. They are challenging the founding principles of the American Republic, and they might actually win as a result."