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

Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "