I got an email from LinkedIn containing a list of “people I might know.”  Doesn’t sound too shocking, it’s a social networking site just like Facebook, right?  Here’s the creepy part:  I don’t even have a “real” LinkedIn account, but the email contained lists of people that I actually do know. Scared? You should be. Read on.

First, I should explain that I don’t use LinkedIn. While your opinion and mileage may vary, I think it’s, well… completely stupid. I seriously doubt that anyone has ever landed a job as a result of a LinkedIn connection, and I just don’t see the point. Anywho, while I don’t have a need for a LinkedIn account, I have occasionally needed to view LinkedIn content that is only available to registered users.  Since I don’t want to endure a lifetime of LinkedIn spam, I set up a completely fake email account that I never used for any other purpose, and set up a LinkedIn account using a fake name, ala “John Doe.”  So I’m “John Doe” on LinkedIn, with an email address of JohnDoe123@hotmail or something like that.  I think I may have listed my profession as “Professional Salsa Tester,” but I can’t recall.

Imagine my shock when I check the fake JohnDoe123 email account that I use with the fake JohnDoe123 profile and see that LinkedIn is suggesting that I “connect with” people that I actually do know in real life. How in the holy hell did they figure that out?

I’ll tell you how – it’s because I’ve searched for these people while logged in to my fake LinkedIn account. In other words, LinkedIn is keeping track of who I search for, and it’s coming back, months later, and suggesting that I add those people as a friend. Not just suggesting, but it’s spamming me and showing off how damned clever it is via email.

See any problems here?  Imagine this: let’s say that, one day, I used LinkedIn to look up a few old girlfriends, just out of curiosity. (I didn’t, but assume that I did.)  Imagine the trouble I’d be in with my wife when LinkedIn sent a message, 4 months later, suggesting that I add 3 of my old girlfriends as LinkedIn connections.  “Why in the hell is it suggesting that you add THEM?!?!?”  “Um…I don’t know?..”

What a complete breach of the privacy I thought I enjoyed on LinkedIn.

But wait… it gets worse!  Did you know that LinkedIn lets paid members see that you’ve viewed their profile?  That’s right, if you view your boss’ profile on LinkedIn, if he is a paid LinkedIn member, LinkedIn will tell him that you’ve viewed his profile.  This works for not only bosses, but all types of people.  (Ex-lovers, Enemies, Coworkers, Competitors, Doctors, The Mayor, a Potential Client, Your Co-Worker’s Son, A Person Who Might Be Interviewing You For a Job, Barb in Accounting, whomever.)  Betcha didn’t know that these people were notified every time you viewed their profile, did ya?  They were. Feeling violated yet?

I’m sure that this super reverse-stalker feature converts a lot of people into paid members.  For me, though, it’s had the opposite effect – I’m going to make sure that I never, ever, ever, ever visit the LinkedIn site again.