LinkedIn People You May Know Privacy Controversy

September 14th, 2009 | by Jason Alba |

I regularly get questions about how in the world LinkedIn knows who you might know… people that you are not connected to but show up in the People You May Know section.  I wrote to a contact at LinkedIn who gave me permission to paraphrase his response… which is this (this response was to my question from someone who saw some surprising suggestions in the box):

If you never imported your mail account contacts then LinkedIn really has no way to get them.

If you import your contacts from any system then LinkedIn can make the logic connections between YOU and your imported contacts.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The algorithm (logic) for the People You May Know section is proprietary – it’s their “secret sauce” (or what we in IT call “black box”), and is a constant work in progress.

There is an analytics person who scours LinkedIn data looking for correlations between connections to try to figure out why they connected.

Some of the logical, easy-to-figure-out connections would come from asking questions like:

Was the person you may know a common person they both knew at their most recent job? Someone at their first job? At college? Etc.

As you would expect, LinkedIn has revised this logic/algorithm over the years. Different factors would become the most important ones based on how the network changes and their understanding of it. Their goal is to deliver those “how did they know that” moments in a way that makes sense to you (not freaks you out).

Finally, my contact made it clear that the contacts that show up in that box are not coming from some access to any of your non-LinkedIn accounts without your approval.

Perhaps when it is most eerily correct, it’s more a function of them getting their algorithm correct :) I’m pretty confident that they are not hacking into my mail system, nor are they allowed access by my mail providers.

  1. 207 Responses to “LinkedIn People You May Know Privacy Controversy”

  2. By Miles Austin on Sep 14, 2009 | Reply

    I have wondered about this from time to time but was not bothered enough to dig into it. The explanation does pass the sniff test for logical. Guess we will have to take them at their word, no reason not to.

    Thanks for providing the answer to what will eventually become a trivia question!

  3. By Scar on Sep 15, 2009 | Reply

    I’ve wondered this about Facebook too; I share a computer with two other people, and they’ve had people popping up on their ‘Suggested Friends’ lists that are on my email contacts lists, but who I haven’t added. Long sentence, hope that made sense!

    It worries me slightly as it seems to be storing my email contacts even if they’re not my contacts on Facebook, and recommending them to others who share my machine.

  4. By Peter on Feb 1, 2010 | Reply

    I’m not sure that their response does pass the sniff test. A person recently showed up on my People You May Know list that I did know – 30 years ago. We live in different cities, in different countries, work in completely unrelated industries, have no contacts in common on LinkedIn and the language school where we met is not listed in either of our profiles. I have not had any contact with this person, personal or electronic, in the past 30 years.

    Now here is the interesting bit. The only electronic connection that does exist between us is that this person is a friend of my wife’s on Facebook. I am not connected to my wife on LinkedIn and am no longer connected with her on Facebook, having deleted my account there some time ago. But I used to be and those records undoubtedly still exist somewhere.

    I have asked LinkedIn for an explanation and, like you, they responded with a short list of obvious fields they use – none of which apply in this case. Otherwise, they decline to tell me how they made the connection. So, the question is, how did they glean this connection without mining data outside of our own LinkedIn profiles?

  5. By Greg on Feb 13, 2010 | Reply

    I had some of Peter’s concerns as well. My theory is this: I’m undoubtedly on some contact lists uploaded by others. So, it’s easy as pie for LinkedIn to suggest I might know THOSE people. Then, there are 2nd degree connections, 3rd degree connections, etc. I suspect LinkedIn is mining all uploaded contacts, looking for potential networks of connections. For example, if I’m on Mary, Bob, and Joes’s lists, and Susie is also on those 3 lists, then I might know people on Susie’s list, even if I never uploaded Susie as a contact. Combine this information with classmate information, colleague information, and there’s all sort of possibilities.

  6. By Peter on Feb 17, 2010 | Reply

    I agree that there is potentially quite a bit of information that LinkedIn could validly use to infer relationships, but in the case I described, none of this was applicable. The only electronic data that connected us existed on my wife’s computer in a supposedly separate application.

    Since that last post I have also seen on my “People you may know” list the person who bought my last house – more than 3 years before I joined LinkedIn. We are now in different cities and completely unrelated industries. We have no contacts in common. He is in my Apple Address Book, but I did not give LinkedIn permission to scan that for potential contacts.

    I am a software designer, not an expert in data mining or data security, but when I describe these situations to colleagues in that end of the biz they get jittery and tell me my concerns are valid. You know what they say about the duck.

  7. By Jason Alba on Feb 17, 2010 | Reply

    @Peter, what do they say about the duck? I’m dying to know :p

  8. By Peter on Feb 17, 2010 | Reply

    The old expression is: If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck and it looks like a duck …. then it is probably a duck.

  9. By Jason Alba on Feb 17, 2010 | Reply

    oooooooooooooooooooh yeah… that duck thing. Sorry, my brain was far away from ducks when I asked…

  10. By Jason Alba on Feb 17, 2010 | Reply

    @Peter and @Greg – have either of you installed the Outlook toolbar? Or what email systems do you use?

  11. By Peter on Feb 17, 2010 | Reply

    I use Apple Mail on my Mac. No connection to Outlook whatsoever (thank goodness).

  12. By Frank on Feb 17, 2010 | Reply

    I am not sure why this is an issue. The purpose of using any social networking site is to be found, isn’t it?

  13. By Peter on Feb 18, 2010 | Reply

    I would put it differently Frank. I see the purpose, especially of this site as it is a business networking site, rather than a social networking site, is to connect with people who you want to connect with. I search for people I am looking for and, if their personally set privacy settings allow, I find them. I find the “People you may know” feature to be useful, but I have not granted LinkedIn permission to access and use any and all data that may exist about me on my PC or in cyberspace. (And let me state that I have no direct evidence that they have done so and am simply questioning how they could have made some of these connections.)

    Separation of data sources is key to personal privacy. I don’t think that either of us would want this service, for example, to have access to our banking or income tax records to connect us to people in similar income levels. LinkedIn should only be using the data we explicitly provide to them to suggest connections. That is the principle we are discussing – not the result.

  14. By Rebecca on Mar 9, 2010 | Reply

    I too have concerns about this “people you may know” thing. I recently met someone completely new who has no friend or work connections to myself. We met through an online dating site (where we are both insulated with aliases and indirect email). We became friends on Facebook. Now he’s showing up in “people you may know”. And he guarantees that he has not allowed access of his contacts to Linkedin, and neither have I. That leaves our only connection being Facebook. Clearly there is some data sharing happening between Facebook and Linkedin.

  15. By Peter on Mar 9, 2010 | Reply

    Thanks for the confirmation Rebecca. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t drawing false conclusions, but it is hard to be certain when you only have one example.

    Here is the latest news in this saga. Being a cranky old SOB I am not predisposed to let this lie, so I have chased this story a little further. First, to close off other possible explanations I have confirmed with my mystery contact that she did not have me in her address book or any other reference to me on her computer. She also confirmed that she never performed a search for me on LinkedIn. That leaves my wife’s Facebook account as our only electronic connection.

    Then I re-opened the issue with LinkedIn customer support and asked them point blank whether they used any external data that users did not explicitly provide to LinkedIn. Here is their reply: “I can assure you that we do not obtain any information outside of one’s Linkedin account.” They suggested an e-mail address connection that was granted by my contact. I wrote back indicating that this was not the case and asked them to explain the specific data used to infer this connection. That was two weeks ago and I have not received a reply.

    I will send the question again, but they can decide to ignore me again if they choose. Jason, do you know of any way that we can spread this issue a little further?

  16. By John on Mar 16, 2010 | Reply

    I can’t believe that users can’t figure out linked does the people you may know feature. It is simple. Person A searches for Person’s B’s profile. Then person B sees person A as a people you may know.

    The girl – Rebbecca above – The guy is googling her and finds her linked in profile. So he shows up on her list of people you may know.
    It is that simple. Just test it with your coworkers or friends PC.

  17. By Peter on Mar 16, 2010 | Reply

    Believe is or not John, we actually thought of that and checked it out. In both cases where someone appeared on my “People you may know” list with no connecting data they have both confirmed that they did not search for me – and I did not search for them.

    Any more theories?

  18. By John on Mar 17, 2010 | Reply


    A a part of the formula linkedin uses looks for people that are connected in some way (e.g. company, 2nd relationship, etc.) which will account for some people in your “people you may know” list.

    I am a software developer and I will say that another part of the formula used to show the list for “People You May Know” is based on people who viewed your profile.

    I did test my theory. I viewed my profile on a co-workers PC that I had no connection with. About 4-5 days later, I saw that person on my “People You May Know” list.

    Similiarly I viewed some people’s profiles that I had no connection with in 10 years. Few days later, they showed up on my “People You May Know” list becuase they saw me on their “People You May Know” list and viewed my profile.

    You could try this theory too with random people. Just open about 10-15 “james smith” or some other common name profiles and a few days later, some may show up on your “People You May Know” list.

  19. By Peter on Mar 17, 2010 | Reply


    Your logic is faulty. Just because a particular algorithm works does not mean that it was used for any specific case. If you look at my last post I stated that neither of the people who showed up on my list with no connecting data searched for me on LinkedIn and I did not search for them.

    I have been an IT professional for nearly 30 years and know how to diagnose a situation like this. Please believe me when I tell you that I have investigated all of the possibilities I can think of using data validly available to LinkedIn and no one, including LinkedIn customer support, have been able to present an explanation of how these connections could have been made without the use of external data. I am open to listening to one, but so far nothing that explains this situation has been presented.

  20. By Paul on Jun 21, 2010 | Reply

    Something strange is definately going on. I did a test : A Facebook search for someone I went to high school with and a few weeks later LinkedIn suggested this person. I checked the LinkedIn connection routes and there was no connection possible through LinkedIn ( different cities, different industry, different professions, no record of school etc).

    I have now tried this test 3 times with 3 different people, one who I met only once at a trade show.

    I started Googling possiblities and saw this forum. I am convinced something is going on as described here. Everything you search for is logged somewhere and someone is making a buck from it.

    But we should all know this already ?

    Interesting the reverse doesn’t seem to happen. If I search for someone on LinkedIn, then Facebook is not suggesting them (yet).

  21. By Jason Alba on Jun 21, 2010 | Reply

    Paul – I assume you did this test while you were logged into Facebook?

  22. By Paul on Jun 21, 2010 | Reply

    Jason – Yes I was.

  23. By Peter on Jun 21, 2010 | Reply

    I’m not surprised, but I’m glad to see additional confirmation and some additional intelligence on how this connection might be working. I have pressed this with LinkedIn Customer Support as far as I can. They deny everything and refuse to answer directly how their software inferred a couple of dodgy connections. The only additional steps we can take is to file a complaint with TRUSTe. This is the organization LinkedIn is licensed with to verify their security policies. Instructions for this procedure are located on the LinkedIn privacy policy page. If we are prepared to take this step we should do so jointly with as much information as we can gather. I have saved all of my e-mails from LinkedIn and am game to proceed if you are. Paul and Rebecca appear to have had similar experiences. Let me know. Jason, let me know if you of any other cases that are not referenced on this site.


  24. By Martin on Jun 22, 2010 | Reply

    LinkedIn just suggested that I might know a couple of students I will be supervising this fall – we are listed in a PDF on the university course page, and I’ve sent them an email, but that’s the extent of our contact. However, I have also done a Google search on them – and I did this while logged in on LinkedIn. My theory is that Google somehow uses LinkedIn to search for stuff – and that’s how LinkedIn suddenly knows…

  25. By Hoover on Jun 22, 2010 | Reply

    I’m pretty suspicious about this too, having just been presented with somebody I know but have had no email connection with.

    And it happened to be a pretty unwelcome suggestion.

    LinkedIn need to make their process more transparent, because if this sort of thing’s gonna happen, I’m out of there.

  26. By Paul on Jun 23, 2010 | Reply

    I like the Google theory. It may provide an alternative explanation for me as I was verifying contacts were on LinkedIn by Googling them.

  27. By Another Peter on Jul 9, 2010 | Reply

    Came across this blog while googling for answers to this phenomenon. I think I may have some input on this. Being in this field as well, I think we tend to have a unique way of thinking about things. :)

    Let’s say Person Y and Person Z have emailed each other in the past. Person Z has not kept any of the emails nor has any connection to Person Y currently in their email address book or account for that matter. Person Y however, had added Z as a contact, let’s assume as “” for the entry. Person Z had not allowed LinkedIn / Facebook to scan their address book / contacts. Person Y did. happens to be the same email address that Z used to sign up for said site. Now Person Y shows up as a person Z may know.

    Something like this could even go a step further, using the same example above. Let’s say that Person Z does not know and is not connected with Person A at all. Persons A and Y are great friends and have both given the site access to their contact lists. This may, in some way, be the key as to why Z is showing up as a person A may know.


  28. By Beck on Jul 9, 2010 | Reply

    This is sickening. No question they are logging your searches somehow. Either on Linkedin itself, or via google, yahoo etc… Two people I know from my long past but am not socially connected to at all, (they are not even in my address book), have been passed on as “people we think you know.” I DID do searches but did NOT want to connect to either of them. Only one is in a related field but not close enough given the many tighter fits out there.

    Very Big Brother-ish. Unethical as they’re not up-front about it.

  29. By Peter on Jul 9, 2010 | Reply

    A good thought Another Peter and it may account for some of the obscure connections we have outlined in this thread, but not mine. I explored all possible avenues of connection with the most suspicious of these connections and the only one that existed was through my wife’s Facebook account. Neither of us existed on each other’s contact lists or anywhere else on our won machines.

    It looks like there are various undisclosed and ethically questionable methods used by LinkedIn to infer these connections. And as I said earlier, I am at the point where LinkIn Customer Support refuses to answer my specific questions. The only avenue we have left, if we wish to pursue this, is a collaborative complaint to TRUSTe laying out all of our “evidence”. I am prepared to put this together and organize it if some others will work with me to collect and vouch for the material.

  30. By lulu on Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

    this is a worry when it comes to both linkedin and facebook, supposing I am not on either but my boss and old boyfriend who is stalking me both have my email address in their address books, will they be recommended to each other by facebook or linked in? I stayed off both to protect myself from this but am I still exposed juts because they both have my email address in their address book

  31. By Peter on Jul 12, 2010 | Reply


    So far I don’t think that we have seen an instance of LinkedIn making a recommendation based on matching entries in address books. It has taken an active link like a Google search or being on a corresponding friends/contacts list in one of the two sites. That should be some consolation for you. But, I don’t deny based on what we have seen that this is possible. If that happens they are likely to be just another name in a long list of possible “people you may know” and they may not recognize each other. At least I hope not.

    For most of us this security crime is just an inconvenience, but your case, lulu, shows just how serious it can be. As I have said before, I am willing to spearhead a complaint to TRUSTe, but I need some support from others in this thread with their specifics. So far I have not received any commitment for that support. Let me know.

  32. By lulu on Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

    hmm I hope not but pople can be very careless about friending people they dont know -see the comment by Nick Barnes at the bottom of the page on this link. Nick suspects but how can we find out for sure and prevent it, after all at worst case senario pychotic ex could be standing outside your work place waiting for you because he and your boss got chatting and your name was mentioned in casual conversation” Oh is that Lulu XYZ blond girl from Serbia, 29 yers old” ” Yes thats her”.

    Nick Barnes said…
    I have reason to suspect that not only does Facebook retain all the address books, but it uses them to construct a social network model including numerous people who are not on Facebook. It then suggests contacts using this social network, including friends-of-friends where the intermediate node is not on Facebook. That is, if you and I both have Fred in our address books, Facebook will recommend us to each other even if Fred is not a member.
    And yes, it’s creepy.

    AD627: Cancelling your account is unlikely to help.

  33. By lulu on Jul 12, 2010 | Reply

    plus re committing to supporting your complaint – I have no proof not being on facebook or linked in only fears, suspicions and and what ifs…..which I dare not test out!

  34. By Peter on Jul 13, 2010 | Reply

    I understand lulu. I was asking whether others who have specific examples of impossible contacts and those who have done some experiments would support the challenge.

  35. By lulu on Jul 14, 2010 | Reply

    I think its an important principle that facebook and linkedin should not in any way shape or form be permitted to use emails addresses not handed to them by the owner of that address and its a major flaw that my friends can give them my address to misuse, and use to bring poeple together that could endanger me while I am not even on facebook and haven’t signed up to facebooks 50 pages of small print. My email address could be misused by them because my boss let them have it. I am powerless and still at risk as I can hardly order my boss off facebook. Therefore I am wondering if Truste is geared up to doing some experements and checking this whole possibility out. If my fears have foundation surley facebook is breaking some data protection law somewhere.

  36. By Another Peter on Jul 15, 2010 | Reply

    @Peter: I read above that you have had no electronic connection with the person, but really as I though about this with my situation, I can only be sure of the electronic connection that I initiate and have no control over what others do (such as, say, someone else uploading their mail client contacts with your email among them without your permission). Perhaps there is some connection that you are unaware of? Perhaps it was through the wife/facebook/ghost-from-your-past sort of connection path. As I thought of this, I began thinking of people that may be less tech savvy and sure enough, a cousin of mine (to whom I have no account link) had uploaded her contacts and may have inadvertently linked me to the “person I may know.”

    Although, under this idea, why wasn’t I “introduced” to every one of her LinkedIn using contacts? The more likely situation is that the “person I may know” just searched for me.

    On a Facebook note, I started an account as an experiment to see how I would propagate through my Facebook-loving friends and family. Knowing that some of the people I knew that use that thing had probably given access to their contacts, I knew I would get friend requests without needing to tell anyone I created an account. So, I created an account, set the privacy settings as high as they could be customized, and never logged back in. It was interesting to see how Facebook pimped me out against my will. At first, two or three friend requests. Without even opening the email to confirm or deny the request, people they knew were friending me, and so on and so forth. All without me actually accepting the friend request. Just the action of sending me a request had put me out on the corner for their friends to also send me a request via the similar LinkedIn “people you may know” feature (forgot what it’s called on Facebook). Use of external data, not likely as I used an email address that no one new to create the account. Just a blatant disregard to the privacy of those unfortunate enough to click through the EULA without reading it.

    Also, I share the spirit of taking action but lack the “evidence” to present anything substantial to the case. I’ve been trying to think of effective experiments to test the suggestion engine, but nothing crafty has surfaced yet.

  37. By Peter on Jul 16, 2010 | Reply

    Agreed Nother. I am sure that LinkedIn drew the inference through my wife’s Facebook account. What I meant was the I had no direct electronic connection with this person for LinkedIn to use – with my permission or without. It is also interesting that they used information from my cancelled Facebook account, which was supposed to have been deleted many months previously.

    I don’t think that we need to be able to prove anything to submit a complaint. As this stage LinkedIn is refusing to answer our questions. All I am looking for is a proxy that they will have a harder time ignoring. I think that collectively we have enough information to make a complaint that is sufficiently credible for TRUSTe to pursue.

  38. By samantha on Jul 20, 2010 | Reply

    Wow. I have a similar story. I have only logged into LinkedIn twice, once when I set up the account and once today. I have never viewed anyone’s profile, nor did I set up my own with any information beyond my name and (now former) employer. No school, no address, etc. I even used a fake email address, so not only did I not import contacts but no one else would have been able to import me since I don’t actually use this address. My “People you may know” suggested my college freshman year roommate, my college best friend, a guy from my high school, and someone I met in Italy in 2005. I am Facebook friends with all these people, although my Facebook email address is different (the name is the same). There is also the possibility that they have viewed my LinkedIn profile, although I’m not sure how they would have “found” me aside from randomly googling me (possible, although it would be an unlikely coincidence since I am no longer in touch with some of them) or the “People you may know” feature suggesting me to them (because of our Facebook connection). Aside from Facebook, the only thing I can think of is maybe they do something with names–like searching people’s address books for your name rather than your email. I guess it is possible that my name, via my other email address, could be in all of these people’s address books.

    Also, the feature suggests a few random people from college I am not Facebook friends with nor have ever emailed with, but I assume this is because it knows I am connected to the above people (via Facebook, searching names, etc.) and the randoms are somehow connected to them. Truly very strange…

  39. By Another Peter on Jul 20, 2010 | Reply

    A note about social networking sites that 1st Peter reminded me of:

    It’s good practice for when you want to leave a site, to manually delete / change all the info therein. When you “quit the site” / “cancel” / “delete” your account, it is safe to assume that the last state it was in is saved indefinitely. This is the case with Facebook, at least, so it is best to cut ties there before “deleting” your account, as it’s not against anything (law or EULA) for them to keep a copy of your profile. Cutting these ties and changing your profile to look like a blank slate before deleting it is a safe measure to avoid questionable situations like the ones on this site.

  40. By lulu on Jul 22, 2010 | Reply

    ie to be specific, re above the suggestion…. chopping off all your friends, changing your email address to a spare throwaway one with an empty contacts book and your surname to something like “blank”, helps ensure that if you are activated again without your permission, no real damage can be done.

  41. By lulu on Jul 22, 2010 | Reply

    …amd this will protect you from ID thieves if nithing else who will hack into facebook at some point for sure, so it’s a good idea to change email and name from right now now so that the friends you trust will still regognise you but ID thieves, stalkers and bosses wont.

  42. By Mike on Jul 23, 2010 | Reply

    LinkedIn is definitely pushing it when it comes to privacy. It pulls up some “people you may know” that only you know you may know. And an annoying flaw in the feature is that it keeps throwing people back at you that you previously searched for. If I look for a “John Smith” and check out profiles of people who might be the right one but are not, it will keep suggesting that I may “know” a particular “John Smith” because I once looked at his profile by mistake.

  43. By bleak on Aug 3, 2010 | Reply

    I was pretty surprised by the people suggested by LinkedIn considering that I have not uploaded any contact lists. After going through the forum, the only plausible explanation that I can find is that even if I have not uploaded my contact list, others who have me on their contact lists must have uploaded their lists. If the algorithm is as clever as they claim, I can see how they could link me to people I have never had in my e-mail list or never even talked to.

  44. By JamesF on Aug 16, 2010 | Reply

    I’m actually concerned about this feature now because I’ve never imported my Outlook contacts and yet LinkedIn is now suggesting someone outside my network whom I’ve emailed several times whilst planning a holiday in another country. I have no link to this person other than those individual emails… how does LinkedIn suddenly decide that I have a connection to someone outside my network in another country?

  45. By Egdbert on Aug 25, 2010 | Reply

    Another disconcerting violation by LinkedIn: I have a friend called Joey in my Yahoo address book that is listed as someone I know. My LinkedIn email address is a GMAIL account, which has absolutely no historical reference to Joey. How does LinkedIn know about my association with Joey?

  46. By lulu on Aug 25, 2010 | Reply

    does Joey have both your adddresses in his address book even if he only contacts you via yahoo. If he posesses the gmail one even if he does not use it, that would link you.

  47. By Egdbert on Aug 25, 2010 | Reply

    Joey has no knowledge of my GMAIL email address, thus it’s impossible that my GMAIL address would be in any of his address books. I only communicate with Joey with my Yahoo email address. Joey probably uses his Yahoo email address as his LinkedIn email address. Joey’s Yahoo address book contains my Yahoo email address and vice versa. Joey and I have no common friends or contacts. I live in the US and Joey lives in Asia.

  48. By Peter on Aug 25, 2010 | Reply

    OK, this topic is heating up again and with each post it becomes more and more clear that there is plenty of fire underneath this smoke. LinkedIn is obviously using data that we have not given it permission to use to draw these inferential connections. My story is documented above. I have exchanged numerous e-mails with LinkedIn Technical Support in which they have both evaded questions and stated specifically that they do not use any external data sources. Their own published security policies indicate that they will not do many of the things we can strongly infer they are doing.

    There are three choices as to how to proceed. 1. You can leave LinkedIn. They will probably not delete your data, but your account will be inactive. 2. You can accept the invasion of privacy as a price you are willing to pay for whatever benefits you perceive that you get from LinkedIn and stop complaining about it. 3. We can submit a formal complaint to TrustE, who is LinkedIn’s custodian of their security policy. I will coordinate this complaint, but I need the active participation of as many of you as possible to present as much evidence as possible within the complaint. I have volunteered to do this on a couple of other occasions and have received no response. If you are truly concerned about this situation, but are not willing to step up and do something about it I suggest that you adopt solutions 1 or 2 and stop posting to this forum.

    Let me know if any of you are interested.

  49. By JamesF on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

    Hi Peter,

    I’m interested. At the very least I’d like to try and determine how they obtained this information. I’m not sure there’s enough evidence to make an official complaint but there’s definitely enough cause for concern.


  50. By Peter on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

    Thanks James. Unfortunately, LinkedIn refuses to divulge how the draw the connections, so a complaint to the policing agency is the only way that we might possibly find out.

  51. By Leonard on Sep 7, 2010 | Reply

    Same thing happened to me recently.

    I’m connected to John Doe.

    JD is connected to Steve Smith. I did look at Steve Smith’s profile once.

    Steve Smith and I are NOT connected. In fact, I’m concerned my wife is having/had an affair with Steve Smith.

    Steve and I are in different industries, from different cities, and have never met. I never downloaded my contacts.

    Steve showed up in my “people I might know” list last week – where all others in my list have at least 12 common contacts with me and my contacts. He is in ONE common contact, as a 2nd level contact.

    My wife, of course, denies the affair.

    I’m presuming that my looking at Steve Smith’s profile led him, somehow, to mine, and that he looked at mine, and then voila – the algorithm suggests we should be friends… IF that’s not the case, then, according to the wisdom above, he downloade his outlook – that outlook contains my wife’s email and somehow, linked in put us as “buddies”….

    any suggestions?

  52. By E on Sep 10, 2010 | Reply

    Thanks to all of you for this very helpful information. I concur completely with your suspicions about the connection between Linkedin & Facebook and about Linkedin’s cagey responses when asked about this issue.

    I haven’t checked my Linkedin profile in about a year – I basically stopped using it. I did check in today and found this “People You May Know,” section, and it was very disturbing. I found being suggested for me:

    – A person from high school (25 years ago) that I friended on Facebook a few months ago. This FB friending is the only communication I’ve had with this person.

    – A person whose profile I looked at the last time I checked into Linkedin – but it wasn’t the right person’s profile (right name, wrong person). I don’t even know this person, but now Linkedin thinks we might know each other because I looked at her profile by accident.

    I fault Linkedin for using my history of online activity inappropriately. But I don’t think Facebook is an innocent party either. I am planning to shut down my Linkedin account, and may do the same with Facebook.

  53. By Antony on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    I recently logged into LinkedIn to be greeted with a pop up telling me it was “loading gmail contacts.” This was without my permission. I was then shown a long list of everyone I had emailed with that account and asked if I wanted to link with them! I have emailed linked in and asked for an explanation and am waiting for their response.

  54. By Pervasive Internetworking on Sep 27, 2010 | Reply

    cookies, cookies cookies…the bane of our existence. they know where we’ve been. linkedin, google, facebook, myspace, yahoo, mail servers, work domains, professional searches, personal searches, tracking tracking tracking our every keystroke. but you can delete them at the end of a session, when you reboot and if you have your privacy settings to maximum.

    ip addresses…mac addresses. where has this computer been, what network is it a part of, what other domains has it connected with. these are not personal details and are not under your control.

    mix the two together.

    mac address (unique to each computer) connects to ip address to access internet. who else has accessed that network from that ip address? are they part of a similar network? easy connection.

    pinned up/forced logout sites like linkedin, facebook and gmail etc. collect this information per session and can share it amongst each other.

    all of your data are belong to the mighty google search panopticon. your home phone is connected to your cable system which uses caller id to screen pop who is calling which can be looked up to give you the callers name, which cabn access a database which shows you where their number logs to whic connects with google street view mapping and satellite imagery which can immediately show you who is calling, full name address house photo and any background information available.

    they’re all internetworked without your permission because the technology has advanced far beyond the social aspect.

    if you want anonymity use proxies, throw away your land and cell phone contract and get a throw away cell phone and keep your contacts written down in a book, on a sheet of un-networked paper.

    it is the only way to remain anonymous.

  55. By Ana on Oct 2, 2010 | Reply

    It does dig through the gmail without permision. recently i was forming a completely new account for a friend and before even completing the opening it already offered her two people she gmailed before. Also, to appear among the people you may know it is , among other things, enough to view someones profile. In a few days they see you as someone they may know. You are offered those you looked up as people you may know only after they see you first and in case they look back at your profile.

  56. By ed on Oct 3, 2010 | Reply

    I’m glad I found this thread. I thought I was crazy. Compare any theories to this:

    I had a few emails shared with my accountant( Gmail). He is not on LinkedIn. But his partner, with whom I have never corresponded in any way, shows up as ‘someone I may know’. They do share an email domain. Linkedin is definitely rooting through email data.

  57. By johnny k on Oct 4, 2010 | Reply

    it makes sense that it is saving who you searched for. that’s why if you try to look ata profile, it asks you to log in first. facebook does the same thing if your not already logged in yet. same goes for any weirdo who searched for you and tried to look at your profile. they had to log in first to check you out, and bingo a connection is made to ‘people who might know each other’

  58. By not amused on Oct 11, 2010 | Reply

    I’d like comments on these 2 examples….

    A friend (person X) of a friend (person Y) appeared in my people you may know. X is not connected to Y in any way except Y has X’s email address. X is a facebook user but not a linked in user. I have never used X’s computer to log into linked in, nor have I used Xs or my own computer to search for Y on linked in (I have viewed Y’s facebook page only, but not when logged into linked in). X is not connected to Y on facebook either.

    The other person who has suddenly shown up is a friend I just met who lives some distance away and has no connection to me except person X above is a mutual friend on facebook. We just became facebook friends and that is all.

    How in the world did these two show up on my people you may know. Its a complete mystery and definitely a worry.

  59. By E on Oct 11, 2010 | Reply

    @not amused: The evidence on my end strongly points to a LinkedIn/Facebook link. I basically chose which of those two sites I used more and quit the other one (which was LinkedIn).

    So the question: users aren’t all happy about this, but is there anything clearly unethical/illegal? I suspect this is new territory that is at this point minimally regulated.

  60. By Peter on Oct 11, 2010 | Reply

    E, it is unethical because it is not disclosed. In fact, it is stated in their Privacy Policy that they do not use data users have not given them permission to use. And, in a very specific e-mail question to LinkedIn Technical Support they denied that they use Facebook data to infer connections.

    Illegal, probably not as I’m sure that we’ve long since abandoned all rights to our data in fine print of the ULAs we’ve all happily clicked through.

  61. By E on Oct 11, 2010 | Reply

    Thanks Peter – nicely put.

  62. By MadaboutDana on Oct 14, 2010 | Reply

    I’ve just been offered a link to somebody I’ve met, once, at a job interview. The only place his details occur are in a single e-mail in my GoogleMail account. There are very few other areas of correlation between us (apart from some very general ones that almost certainly apply to hundreds of other people on LinkedIn). This very strongly suggests to me that LinkedIn has some kind of arrangement with Google. I don’t know about Facebook – I have strenuously avoided the latter because of privacy concerns. Very interesting, and actually quite concerning.

  63. By S on Oct 14, 2010 | Reply

    My psychiatrist asked me today if I’d asked to add him to my connections on LinkedIn. I hadn’t. It turned out that he’d been sent an email from LinkedIn saying that I was one of the people he might know. Later I signed into my LinkedIn account, and there he was, as a person I might know.

    Of course, we know each other, but it’s beyond creepy that LinkedIn can infer a relationship between me and my mental health provider, one that neither of us has in any way made obvious. What could possibly be more deserving of privacy than someone’s connection with her psychiatrist?

    We talked about it at length and neither of us had looked at the other’s profile; in fact, neither of us uses LinkedIn very much at all. I have his phone number and email in my contacts in my Droid and have called his office occasionally, though I have not actually emailed him. How could LinkedIn have possibly figured out our connection without accessing data that I never gave them permission to use?

  64. By Snes on Oct 17, 2010 | Reply

    I was wondering the same thing and found it very difficult to find info about the way this ‘people you may know’ on linkedin works. On linkedin they are (in my opinion) very vague about it … I understand they don’t want to give the technical details but the things they tell don’t explain why some people show up.

    This is the case:
    Sometimes I search for people on facebook for different reasons, because you want to know who they are, because you used to know them and want to know how they are doing (not like stalking), or I want to show a friend the person I was talking about).
    Last week I looked for a colleague on facebook, just because I was curious. Again, I think that a lot of people do facebook searches about people they meet all the time.
    But now, all of a sudden this person keeps turning up in Linkedin, but we have no link at all. I have my company not in my linkedin profile.
    I’m wondering she sees me too … wondering why I am there.
    Difficult to explain (in English) but I guess most people understand why it’s a bit embarrassing if people know you are looking at their profiles.
    I ‘m not amused … at all.

  65. By Snes on Oct 20, 2010 | Reply

    Wanted to add this.
    Did some more thinking about the subject, talked to some people who were wondering other things.
    A guy from work did some google searches on motorbikes. Brands, types, specific stuff. Now the adds that show up on facebook are about motorbikes. Could be a coincidence but ….. hmm.
    When you do a search on facebook you get webresults too … when I type my own name in facebook + linkedin I get a link to my profile on LI. So it is connected an it is known that search engines keep track of all searches. They know what you look for and use it.
    So obviously … there is nog specific google/linkedin link, on the internet everything is linked, by searches, passwords and users.
    And people have 2 choices: use internet and accept that you’ll use some privacy. Or stay offline and cut yourself from social live.
    Offcourse it’s not that black/white.
    Still, it’s not fair they are not honest in it. They give you a choice but are not open about the concequences. Why? I guess because they see no harm, I believe there no miss-use … for now. But once there is a real advantage, that will change, it could be quite powerfull. Internet opened the world a bit and gives people the chance to look for own solutions in anonymity. You can find help when suicidal, sick, have an addiction. Young people who are confused about their sexuality find answers. And so on ….
    And when people wonder how they know, they say … pretty cool huh? That’s lame, lame and possibly) dangerous.
    So from now on when I google something, I’ll add some searches after that are completely crazy.

  66. By ZA on Oct 20, 2010 | Reply

    Here is another one.
    A friend of mine was tagged with this cute girl in a picture on facebook. The next time I met my friend, I asked him about her. My laptop was nearby, so we searched her name on FB. We clicked through some of the profiles that came up, but none of them was her. So my friend logged in to his FB account. It turns out, she deactivated her FB profile. The pictures were there, but she wasn’t tagged anymore.
    About a week later, her name showed up in my PYMN list. I have no connections whatsoever with this girl, I don’t know her. Even my friend doesn’t really know her. They were at a party, someone took their picture and posted on FB. The only single way linkedin could come up with her name is that if they are tracking what I searched on facebook.

  67. By Jon on Oct 22, 2010 | Reply

    Wow interesting discussion here! Thought I would add my story as info for theories.
    I’ve been carefully pursuing a job at a new company that doesn’t even have the plant built yet. I got a guy’s e-mail by word of mouth, mailed him a question about applying for the job (not adding him to my Live Mail contacts). I applied and Googled his name in an attempt to find out what he does and what his qualifications are to work there. I made a linked in profile with no info so I could view more of his profile and left it at that. I called the company yesterday to ask when the position is expected to hire (1 year discrepancy in posting info) and had to leave a voicemail with no reply so far. Today I open my e-mail and linked in has sent me three people I may know. One is the guy I looked at and two others are people that work at this company. I never searched for them or looked at their profiles.
    I was a little freaked out as to how this happened. I am not friends with any of them on Facebook and as far as I know no 2nd or 3rd relations. The jobs I am applying for I am handling seriously and trying to be very professional. I do not appreciate computer algorithms trying to do my work for me. The only thing I can hope is like others have thought, maybe people who have viewed your profile suggested.

  68. By People you may know on Oct 24, 2010 | Reply

    Linkedin presents names of people you search for as well as names of people that search for you in the “people you may know” list. This obviously impacts privacy.

  69. By BG on Oct 27, 2010 | Reply

    Today I discovered two people in my LinkedIn “People You May Know” one of whom I do know and the other who shares the name of someone I know but not the location and I’m not linked to that location. I searched for these people on Google and linked to one or more of those free people search sites within the last 2 months. I do know that for the name-sharer, I clicked on the people search result and that’s how I know it’s not the same person. This is the first time I’ve looked through my list since then. I don’t use Facebook and neither of these people is ever mentioned in any email account I have. The only supercookie I have is a google one but I have many cookies in my cache. So, somehow, my cookies or searches are being read and linked to my IP or computer name and then linked to my LinkedIn account.

  70. By MoeB on Oct 28, 2010 | Reply

    Peter, yes, I will back you if you’d like to file a complaint. I absolutely hate Big Brother. Please let me know what you need from me.

    My Story: Using my husband’s laptop, I created a LinkedIn profile for my boss. I did not import addresses. But suddenly LinkedIn started suggesting that my boss may know many of my husband’s friends. My husband does not have a LinkedIn account. Obviously LI must have hacked my husband’s Gmail account and stolen his email contacts. There is no connection whatsoever between my boss and my husband. This really p*sses me off. Of course I immediately wrote to LI about this. They gave me some lame response, attempting to reassure me about my privacy, yet not answering my questions at all about how they hacked my private info. Like the above poster, when I followed up with their bogus response, they have just ignored me. It’s been several months and they’ve never responded. It makes me sick. What is the price I’m paying to have this networking opportunity?!

  71. By E on Oct 28, 2010 | Reply

    Add me to a list who would back a complaint. I’m probably not the best to file it because I lack the technical language that a credible complaint requires. But I would sign on if the opportunity was there.

  72. By gosh on Oct 28, 2010 | Reply

    I am so relieved to have found this site. I thought I was going crazy trying to rack my brains as to how LI suggests People You may Know. I am convinced it is a mixture of Facebook connections and people you have looked up on LI> Bit scary when an ex from 30 years ago pops up! All I did was out of curiosity do a seach then whammo! Everyone by his name keeps popping up! Not going near the site anymore!

  73. By Peter on Oct 28, 2010 | Reply

    Now think, for all of the people who have appeared on your lists out of the blue, who’s lists have you appeared on? How many of them do you really want to have a line on you?

    Another thought, if LinkedIn is using data both from your cache without permission and from external sources what else could they be doing with it. Drawing connection inferences is pretty tame compared to selling the data to marketers and data mining companies.

    I am travelling at the moment, but will be home by late next week and will look into submission of a formal privacy complaint now that I have some pledges of support. Let me know if any one else wants to join this effort. I’ll be in touch.

  74. By lulu on Oct 30, 2010 | Reply

    this may help – it is facebook being investigated in the above article but I this is probably how Linkedin work too. In Germany they have stricter privacy laws because of their past. Consumers are noticing and complaining about how their information is used by internet companies.

  75. By lulu on Oct 30, 2010 | Reply

    alhough to be more specific its non consumers who are noticing how their information is mis-used by comampnies to suss and store information about their relationships.

  76. By tibicina on Nov 2, 2010 | Reply

    Actually, what I find interesting is that LI apparently records searches done by non-members who are members of FB. This seems to have facilitated an external and creepy connection.

    I am on LI professionally because I teach at a business school and the students use LI to make connections for work purposes. I became a member in January of this year (2010). I use my work email addy.

    I must have looked up my husband’s former girlfriend some years ago on LI because he has a history of messy transitions and has been less than perfectly honest about his dealings with former flames and a former wife. I was not, then, a member of LI, although I had a FB profile. My husband is also a member of FB and (groan) twitter, but not a member of LI. The former girlfriend (and former wife, for that matter) know ABOUT my existance, but to what extent they know about my name, etc., is unknown.

    Just in the past few weeks, the former girlfriend/woman with same name as former girlfriend shows up in my PYMK suggestions as a level 1 connection. And tries, apparently, to get back in touch with my husband by calling him on our house number.

    Since she knows where he lives, I’m not all that surprised that she called. He hasn’t changed the house number since they were involved. On the other hand, her call is coincidentally close to her name showing up in my PYMK, reminding her of my husband and inspiring her to see what he was up to, etc. etc. etc. It’s been four years of no contact between them… why now?

  77. By Daniel on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    Here is a scary one… I am only connected to 2 people on LinkedIn (both out of state contacts that I have minimal actual connection with). I have never imported any of my address books from any of my email accounts. I haven’t even gone to the LinkedIn website in a couple of years.

    LinkedIn just sent me an email suggesting that I “might know” my mental health therapist and gave his name. The only non-”real life” connection I’ve had with him is through my HMO (KP) company’s website. There is no connection to him outside of that! Does KP have a serious leak in their system that is allowing LinkedIn to data mine it? Obviously I have never mentioned to anyone that I am going to see a psycho-therapist. So how did LinkedIn work out this connection?

  78. By erica on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    I have a linkedin account that i barely ever use. A while back I did an Internet search on a friend of a friend who I’ve never met and have no email conact with ever. Yes, I was snooping. Today she shows up as a PYMK in my linkedin spam. Again, my linkedin account is barely ever open, but I had searched her on google and facebook. I do not have gmail

  79. By chris on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    I have one contact on LinkedIn and it has now suggested I connect with my ex’s partner who with said ex recently took my son out of the country for a year without permission. I would like to link in if only to send a letter bomb, bizarre.

  80. By MoeB on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    Daniel, does your Psycho-therapist have your email address? If so, it is possible that HE used his Linked In, allowing it to use HIS address book. LI then connected you to him that way.

  81. By John Doe on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    I found this discussion when I searched on linkedin and gmail. I did that because I keep seeing people show up in my PYMK box and I have had no contact with them for over a year – but the contact was through my gmail account. There is no industry, groups, common friends, or any network relationship. I just said to someone that it seemed that linkedin was going through my gmail account and reading addresses and then I found this discussion. They are definitely data mining.

  82. By Kelly on Nov 4, 2010 | Reply

    Like everyone else here, I’m trying to figure out the logic behind LinkedIn’s “People You May Know.” So, I set up a dummy account and looked up some people. Sure enough, the people I looked up appeared in my “People You May Know” section a few days later. Other people whom I didn’t look up appeared as well. I’m not sure why, but trying to figure it out.

  83. By sam on Nov 11, 2010 | Reply

    Interesting discussion.

    I disagree with “if you’re on a social NW site, you WANT to be found”. Found, yes … stalked, no.

    HOWEVER (big BUT)msot of us are sometimes careless with personal info. Read this sentence twice: Anything you put on the web could potentially be accessed by unintended eyes … ANYTHING (trust me on this, I’ve been in Info Security a long time).

    1. Is LinkedIn data-mining? Yes, defninitely.
    2. Are they the only ones? No, not by far.
    3. Should we stop using social NW sites like LinkedIn? No, you’ll lose out on a lot.
    4. Is the internet “safe”? Obviously not; as I mentioned, anything & everything you put on the internet could potentially fall into the wrong hands (and much easier than you think).
    5. What should we do? BE CAREFUL!! Look for ways to reduce your risk, such as using HTTPS (the “s” is SSL encryption) wherever you can (it’s not a guarantee but better than sending your ID & Password unencrypted, eh?). Install security software (anti-virus, firewall, etc. — lots avail free).

    Don’t mean to be preachy, but being in the biz, I see so many mistakes that could be avoided very easily, with just a little knowledge and uncommon sense.

  84. By Kelly on Nov 11, 2010 | Reply

    Alright, LinkedIn is showing people that look you up in your “People You May Know” list. As I mentioned, I set up a dummy account on LinkedIn and I looked myself up from the dummy account. About a week later, the alias I used for the dummy account appeared on my “People You May Know List.” I have never looked up my dummy account via my real account. But my alias showed up as someone I may know because my alias looked me up. I hope this makes sense. The bottom line: People that look you up will appear in your “People You May Know” list.

  85. By E on Nov 13, 2010 | Reply

    @Sam: Thanks – you obviously have some good experience and insight. A couple of your comments, though, prompt questions for me:

    (1) Yes, data mining is done all over – even without the advent of the internet it happens in the form of mailers, sales calls in our homes, etc., that are targeted. But if, as you say, our personal information online can so easily fall into the wrong hands, why SHOULDN’T people refuse to use services that are unacceptably aggressive about their practices? Sometimes the public needs to speak and lines need to be drawn.

    (2) What I read here that is particularly egregious about LinkedIn is not that it gives some of our personal info to marketers, etc., but that it invades private email accounts, and publicly publishes your activity from completely different sites (Facebook) and your privately done searches. That’s not cool and it crosses a line in my estimation.

    Thanks again.

  86. By zero0 on Nov 18, 2010 | Reply

    I had a strange one. I got a “People you may know” that listed the husband of an old girlfriend (whom I haven’t seen in 20+ years)from across the country. I looked at his profile, but there was no clue how they suggested him.

    I Googled on his name…and found his obituary! He died 3 weeks ago!! Why would Linkedin suggest this name now?

    Maybe Linkedin has contacts in the afterlife??

  87. By E on Nov 18, 2010 | Reply


    My guess is that she looked at your profile on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn then started searching all of her contacts and suggesting them – the two degrees of separation principle. Which, I would guess, she would not be too happy about either…

  88. By zaz on Nov 22, 2010 | Reply

    Well same story, same ratio, as a journalist I am really freaked by the PYMK. All the people who will hate me, are on that list looking for me, amongst which a scary number of civil servants.
    So I always have the PYMK open but I never use LI to find someone…

    So what happened. A person that I have in my gmail account and that Linkedin has seen with my permission, never popped up (or never anymore).
    I ran into him the other day, after years and years. I stared to him a little bit and tried to look my best. Ow he is cute, no other than cute. He’s some 15 years older so by human logic he must think I am really attractive.

    And indeed. No 4 days later he appeared in my PYMK.

    So and this is the most likely explanation to a lot of your mysteries. He watched my profile. Linkedin mingles it with your network data. It cannot be otherwise.

  89. By Sarah on Nov 29, 2010 | Reply

    I came to this site because I was freaked out this morning to see a “people you may know” email from LinkedIn which includes a guy who I had a drunken one-night stand with, in college … in 1989!!! I haven’t seen him or spoken to him in 21 years!!!! WTF?

    Then I checked my “People You May Know” list on LinkedIn and discovered not one but TWO ex-boyfriends from college/grad school. No common links. No common friends on Facebook or anywhere else.

    The only explanation is that all 3 of these guys recently looked for my profile on LinkedIn. I’m totally creeped out now!

  90. By gg on Dec 6, 2010 | Reply

    It is becoming clear that there is a definate connection between FB and LinkedIn. LinkedIN must pay FB for access to their customer searches. Why would they do this? To boost their potential number of customers to increase advertising reveue. And advertisers will likely pay for every click you make.
    I conclude that when you search for someone on FB, you show up in that person’s PYMK. When they click back on your profile, they show up on your PYMK. I recently looked up an old business associate and sure enough, that person shows up on my PYMK.(they recruit and must have clicked back on my profile)
    Here’s the real creepy part-searched a person on FB (old friend). Clicked on a few friends of that person months, almost year ago. Haven’t been on LinkedIN for a year. Logged on LinkedIn yesterday. Guess who showed up in PYMK? The friend of the old friend that I clicked on in FB! I do not know this person!!
    Another creepy-a boss has been showing up in PYMY. None of my work associates/FB friend is a FB friend with the boss.
    One more thing-my FB and real friend is now showing up on LinkedIn as someone I may know. We do not use linkedIn to communicate.
    They work in collaberation and are tracking everything!

  91. By E on Dec 7, 2010 | Reply

    Some of you may find this article to be of interest:

    Here’s a quote: “The implication is that they (a “data scraping,” service hired by Facebook) have serious expertise in data gathering at scale that may sometimes be in violation of the terms of service of the sites being harvested.”

  92. By caril on Dec 21, 2010 | Reply

    I joined linked in, gave them very little info, hardly ever went back. I just got a “people you may know” that included the area manager of a company I investigated online for political reasons. I have absolutely no other connection to this person. I am creeped out and furious.

  93. By caril on Dec 21, 2010 | Reply

    Probable explanation:
    I may have clicked a google link that lead to that person’s public LinkedIn info. LinkedIn identified me from a cookie on my computer. The search was perhaps six months ago… Is there any info they don’t keep?
    I am going to quit LinkedIn.

  94. By caril on Dec 21, 2010 | Reply

    Oh, and, looking for a way to quit, I just checked out LinkedIn for the first time in a long time…The above mentioned came from an email I got from LinkedIn…and I found a suggested person they could ONLY have gotten from Facebook.

  95. By caril on Dec 22, 2010 | Reply

    Sorry… researching it,to my surprise, it looks like the suggested person does not come from facebook. He is a real-world friend of friend, and it is possible that he had a look at my LinkedIn profile.

  96. By Lawyer on Jan 6, 2011 | Reply

    I have just read the whole of this thread. I think your last post was October. I am certainly willing to join you in a formal complaint. My latest PYMK email from LI leads me to believe they have illegally mined my address book, or worse.
    Neither ofus are registered here. How do you propose totake this forward? I will check this site for next couple of weeks.

  97. By Carlf on Jan 6, 2011 | Reply

    None of these really suprise me as the manager of website development and digital marketing activity. Many of the explainations above are valid and one of these almost certainly accounts for how many, many of the the links have been made.

    I do not subscribe to the harvesting of personal data from one site to the other or even from you outlook/webmail account. More likely would be that Facebook/Linkedin harvest the infomation from documents/information already on the web. For example the pdf file of the college teacher and the students, the tagging of people together in 20 year old photos, etc. Alternatively maybe one of these students had searched for him.

    I guess it is not particularly ethical but unsuprising as these companies vie for a bigger slice of the market.

    I would ask one question here and that is that if there they are so good at getting this data from us why are many of the suggestions I get of people that I have never heard of. They still have a long way to go before they have cracked it I guess.

    The suggestion of a previous poster about removing yourself from everywhere and having a pay as you go mobile phone is probably the only way to stay semi annonymous in this day and age.

    I personally am more concerned about the proliferation of CCTV and ID card schemes than the trawling of web data by social networking sites.

  98. By E on Jan 11, 2011 | Reply

    Today I had someone (Person A) appear as PYMN on LinkedIn. This person was never in my gmail or facebook contacts, as I lost touch with them long before I even had those accounts. We have exactly 1 mutual contact (Person B) in real life. Person B is a contact I am NOT friends with on LinkedIn, and who I choose to have nothing to do with in real life. Person A is not linked to me at tier 1,2,or 3. We are in a same group on LinkedIn, of thousands. Of those thousands, Person A is the only person to be a PYMN. I have never searched for this person and never thought of them, and I doubt she has reason to search for me. The only correlation I can think is that we are both in the contact book of Person B. Any thoughts?

    Second scenario. I was looking at LinkedIn with my husband, and the PYMN suggestions included people HE took a class with months ago at school. These are not friends or contacts of mine. My husband does not have a Facebook account and he nor I have ever searched for those people. Again there seems to be a link between his gmail account contacts. Because I am in there as well as these classmates, we are being linked.

    How is this ethical and legal?

  99. By lulu on Jan 15, 2011 | Reply

    E above, Precisely. Worst case scenario…Supposing I am not on either but my sister and old boyfriend who stalked me for years both have my email address in their address books, will they be recommended to each other by facebook or linked in? If violent ex found me because Linked in illegally used my email address to make the connection between him and my sister then showed him her face and name as PYMK, how could we prove it was their fault if he turned up on her or my doorstep.

  100. By Kate on Jan 26, 2011 | Reply

    Relieved others have found this with Linkedin – I signed up with them as a NEW person (Jan’11) for all of 2 minutes & then closed & removed myself AFTER only 1 minute of taking my details (name, e-mail address) they came
    up with a list of about 20 “people I may know” – I was so shocked as knew them, some only once, but no recent contact & in some cases cannot even explain where they knew them from!! I cancelled it immediately! They must be without any doubt whatsoever accessing one’s personal e-mails over years! I was only a member for 2 minutes!!

  101. By E on Jan 26, 2011 | Reply

    It’s called, “data scraping,” and there are companies that specialize in it. Apparently it’s not illegal in and of itself, though at times it may push boundaries into a place that’s not legal or ethical. Most people are oblivious, or choose not to question it. But consumers should know what they’re signing up for more clearly than through some vague wording in 2-point fine print embedded in a long agreement of terms page. I cancelled my linkedin account as well, for the same reasons.

  102. By E on Feb 5, 2011 | Reply

    This is an article that references FB’s apparent disdain for data scraping of its members – however, apparently it does make some contractual agreements with others to allow it…assuming LinkedIn is one of those sites.

  103. By توما on Feb 9, 2011 | Reply

    Something’s fishy for sure. There are recommendations that I get from people whom I have only had single points of contact via gmail. I did NOT import any contacts, so no, LI does not pass the sniff test. Question is, how are they getting people from gmail? Is LI affiliated with Google in any way?

  104. By JV on Feb 12, 2011 | Reply

    Glad to have found this discussion.

    FWIW, I signed up on Linkedin about a week ago. I am not on Facebook, I don’t use Gmail,I do not keep any email addresses in the address books of either of my two email accounts, and generally, when I’ve searched for other people on Linkedin I’ve done so while signed out of my account.

    Thus far, Linkedin has been unable to suggest any PYMK for me.

  105. By Jools on Feb 12, 2011 | Reply

    Is it possible those people have searched for you or that you show up in their contacts scraping etc?

    Someone I know, who I have no professional contacts in common with, who is not on facebook and who I have never emailed, showed up in my PYMK last week. Another person I’m not connected to online also said this guy had shown up in PYMK too. My theory is that this person looked us both up on LinkedIn.

  106. By lulu on Feb 14, 2011 | Reply

    In Germany where they have stricter privacy laws – they can and do protect their citizens from some of the practices of Internet comanies, if they violate the rights of their citizens.

  107. By John Lewis on Feb 15, 2011 | Reply

    I am mystified about this. I was invited by LinkedIn to connect with a woman I worked with in 1992, before the Internet! The only possible way they could have put two and two together was that I did a Google search of her name a year or so ago. That’s it. I assure you she doesn’t even remember me or my name. So how did this happen?

  108. By Lee Knox on Feb 23, 2011 | Reply

    Clearly they are using the resume entered and are linking companies and key phrases, like areas of expertise, to draw links. And I think that if someone searches your name, perhaps that would be added too. Explains a lot, no? I am not on FB, but they found connections to a company that is not on any record that I posted but that I did business with. I think that person must have searched for me first, even maybe a long time ago, before I joined. Maybe not so creepy, just really smart techniques. kudos to the ingenuity!

  109. By Goonie Goohoo on Feb 24, 2011 | Reply

    I,too, am baffled by some things on LinkedIn. I have an account that I haven’t visited in probably 6 or so months, maybe more. Over a year ago, I viewed my now ex-husband’s girlfriend’s FB account and probably her LinkedIn account. I have not looked at anything about her regarding these accounts since then. Yesterday he asked me why I showed up as having Viewed her Profile “in the last 3 months.” I said I was sure I didn’t know…he knew I’d looked a year ago b/c I told him, but I have NOT looked in the last 3 months to be sure! I haven’t even updated my employment info b/c I couldn’t remember my password! How is it showing that I’m viewing a profile (not just showing up as PYMK) but actually having VIEWED her profile when I haven’t in over a year??

  110. By ML on Mar 1, 2011 | Reply

    Are managers of bad charactor giving bad references by contacting other potential hiring managers on linkedin and bypassing HR?

    Can this be a lawsuit for slander?
    Some future managers believe everything they hear.

  111. By Scott on Mar 1, 2011 | Reply

    My sister-in-law is just creating a linkedin profile for the first time. She did not upload any contacts (she doesn’t even use outlook to store her address book). Linkedin recommended 4 people: 2 were women she had worked with at a past job, 1 was her old boyfriend from college (oddly, nobody else from her entire graduating class, just him). The last name was the shocker. Recently a drunk driver hit my sister-in-law, and the case is just settling. They had never met before that day, and the woman has been in jail for the last 6 months. No work, school, or other personal connections, yet that was who LinkedIn recommended. It seems to me that if a person searches for you at some point, linkedin holds onto that search, then they get recommended to you when you sign up. I guess LinkedIn assumes that if they are looking for you, they must know you. Makes sense I guess, but still it was very strange to see that woman’s name as a recommendation.

  112. By Mickey C on Mar 2, 2011 | Reply

    I think the search theory is closer to true. My husband’s ex-wife showed up as someone I might know … I have never met the woman and I’m still shocked to have seen her name show up.
    Another person that I would never think would show up is a college classmate of my sisters?!?!

    In both these cases, there is a possibility that either or both these people might have done a search for me either on google or on linkedin. Either way–I don’t like or approve of this function.

    I have never communicated with either of these people digitally! I think much of it has to do with if they are searching for you online.

  113. By E on Mar 2, 2011 | Reply

    Mickey – I agree with you. That’s why I got rid of my LinkedIn profile a couple of months ago. However, LinkedIn continues to try to lure me back by periodically sending me emails telling me I should accept various contacts. But I’m not taking the bait….

  114. By FromFL on Mar 14, 2011 | Reply

    So glad I’m not the only one that feels that LinkedIn violates my privacy. I don’t use Facebook or GMail. I use Outlook and have not given LinkedIn access to that account.

    I was breezing through PYMK and see the name of awoman from whom I purchased something several years ago. Although she has a common surname, we exchanged e-mails over a year ago and not since then. I don’t even know anyone that knows her. How did her name appear on PYMK?

    In addition, a person that heads up a non-profit organization showed up on my PYMK. I have never done a search on him. He has only appeared on the cc: line of a few e-mail messages over the past few months. I am not linked to anyone that knows him.

    It’s pretty obvious that LinkedIn is taking a look at my e-mails.

  115. By Jay on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    Hi there. I have also been puzzled and concerned about how they do this.

    Social networking sites have shown you who looked at your profile for ages – remember Hi5? I don’t think this is an issue in itself, in fact it actually provides you with additional knowledge which you wouldn’t otherwise have access to about access to your online data. I think it is a reasonable assumption that they will do this when you search for names on their network.

    The privacy issue seems to arise when there is sharing of such information between third party sites – specifically when they do not publish which other sites they are linked with. Perhaps most serious is if Google search or gmail records are shared in this way, and certainly if connected with an assumption of who you are gleaned from IP or cookie information specific to your computer or network. I don’t think any of us want to allow these sites to use any such information in this way.

    Peter seems to have disappeared… Does anyone else here plan to take this further, or are we just shooting the breeze?

    In so many ways we seem powerless in the face of actions by large corporations. We moan, but nothing changes. In fact it keeps getting worse.


  116. By K on Mar 29, 2011 | Reply

    Okay, so an ex keeps showing up as a “Person I May Know” on LinkedIn. I have not looked up this person via LinkedIn or anywhere else, so I’m assuming he looked me up or we have some type of connection through some other means. Anyhow, if I delete this person (click the “X” next to his name), will I also be removed from his “People You May Know” list if I’m on it? Also, how frequently does the “People You May Know” list update? This person keeps showing up.

  117. By Vincent on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    Glad I found this discussion. Like everyone else here I recently had a Twilight Zone moment related to LI.

    Several years ago I setup profiles on LI and FB using my personal email address. Neither profile was very extensive. I had no personal infomation, photos, former employers, friends, etc. Basically, just my name. After setting up the profiles I NEVER logged back in. I’d even forgotten my UID and PWD.

    A few weeks ago I was cleaning the attic and found a ‘box of old crap.’ The box had photos and cards from friends, family, ex GFs and the like. Some of the people had been out of my life for 30 years or more. Out of a mix of curiosity and nostalgia I went to the PC and did a Google search on a friend from grade school (no contact in last 30 yrs) and an old GF (20 yrs past). I was not logged in to LI, FB or email.

    Now for the weird part. Last night I logged in to my email account and among my new messages were two that got me thinking. One from the classmate and one from the ex GF, both via LinkedIn. I replied, and asked what made them contact me after so many years. Both replied that I’d appeared as a PYMK in their LinkedIn profile!

    These guys at LI are up to something sleazy. My guess is they’re using one of Adobe’s Flash super cookies to track web searches then pimping me out to anyone I searched.

    I’m running a test this week setting up brand new email, FB and LI accounts with alias names. Then I’ll search for my alias and see if I show up as a PYMK in the LI and FB alias accounts.

    Peter – if you’re still looking for people to join you in your complaint please count me in.

  118. By Vincent on Apr 8, 2011 | Reply

    Like everyone else here I recently had a Twilight Zone moment courtesy of LinkedIn.

    Several years ago I setup profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook. Both were bare-bones profiles with no imported email addresses, no contacts, no schools, photos or previous employers. I quickly lost interest in social networking and never thought much about the profiles, or even logged back in to LI or FB until now.

    A few weeks ago while cleaning the attic I came across a box of old photos, cards, etc. from friends and family. Among the items in the box were a birthday card from a friend from grammar school (hadn’t seen in 30+ yrs) and a photo of an ex GF (20 yrs past). Out of a sense of curiosity and nostalgia I googled both the classmate and the ex. I was not logged into email, LI or FG at the time.

    Here’s the weird part – this week I received email via LI from both the classmate and the GF. Both said that I’d appeared in their PYMK pane in LI. What’re the odds? Something is going on at LI, this is too unlikely to be just a coincidence. I think they may be using a zombie cookie (Adobe Flash?) to scrape information off my PC then pimp me out on LI.

    I’m setting up a test this week. I opened a new email account and setup new LI and FB profiles all using an alias. Both profiles are as basic as is possible with no connections or history. Now I’m going to google my alias and see if I show up in the PYMK pane in the alias’s LI profile.

    Peter – if you’re still interested in filing a complaint please count me in.

  119. By Probably This.. on Apr 13, 2011 | Reply

    The person was looking for you – found your linked in profile, looked at it and the servers recorded that – so now the AL decides you just might ‘know’ this person looking for you/reminiscing about the past et al….best guess.

  120. By Theresa on Apr 20, 2011 | Reply

    Man…I have avoided social networking like the plague. Today, an old friend sent me an invite to linked in and I reluctantly accepted, offering “bare bones” information. I am already regretting it based on this thread. None of these theories seem to hold up for the “people I may know.” I have a potpourri of people listed. One is a co-worker from about 5 ys ago that briefly worked with me. Another was a friend of a friend who I had lunch with last year. Another was an ex from 5 ys ago. I have not googled most of these people, nor have I sent them email from my work address, which is the only email address I listed on my LI profile. I am also NOT on facebook. This is really irksome. I am going to cancel my account, but I would also join anyone wanting to file a complaint.

  121. By angie on Apr 21, 2011 | Reply

    I searched a couple of people on linkedin who have no professional connections with me but I went to school with them years ago (yeah I was snooping), and suddenly these people show up under PYMK. One of these people has a somewhat common name and I’m not sure the suggestion is the right person, but of all the profiles with his name, it was the profile that most likely could have been him – creepy.

    However, not everyone I searched on linkedin appears under my PIMK. I suspect these particular people I searched found me in their PYMK lists and then looked at my profile, and the people I searched who don’t appear in my PYMK didn’t look at my profile.

    I know for a fact that one of these people looked at my profile because he shows up as seeing my profile – which kind of freaks me out. However, some people choose to appear anonymous when they look at profiles. But apparently choosing to appear anonymous doesn’t matter, because if you look at someone’s profile, you WILL most likely appear in that person’s PYMK list – very scary.

    I also got a PYMK suggestion of a Mom of my daughter’s friend from preschool. The only way I can imagine she ended up on my list is because I emailed her months ago to RSVP to her daughter’s birthday party.

    I’m very careful with what I do on linkedin now – who I search and which profiles I choose to view.

  122. By The Duke on Apr 29, 2011 | Reply

    I got a “Twilight Zone moment” today. Within the last year I did searches for a college roomate, circa 1975-6. Merely entered his name on both Google and Facebook. Used several Boolean searches on Google, but I couldn’t find anything directly related to my old friend.

    Today, in my AOL email, I get the Linkd notice, with this guy’s current photo, and his ENTIRE bio. VERY strange…I completely forgot I was even a member of Linkd. NEVER use it. I’m on Facebook , but never use it. I’m VERY suspicious of it all to boot, but THIS is very strange stuff…Obviously, Facebook, and Google, and Linkd are all trading info with each other.

  123. By LinkedIn Pro on Apr 30, 2011 | Reply

    The answer is that the suggestions are based on who VIEWED your profile.

    When YOU view someone’s profile they do not know that you did. However, they DO get a seemingly “random” suggestion that they might know you.

    So don’t think it’s private.

  124. By Very Troubled on May 4, 2011 | Reply

    Okay, now it’s personal.

    I’m a member of a 12 step online group. Our archives and list are NOT PUBLIC. Today there was a familiar name among my list of people I may know, I searched my gmail and found it was someone who was on that list years ago. I never had personal contact with them and there is no way a connection could be made.

    In 12 step groups WE ARE ANONYMOUS. It’s one of the foundations of the functioning of getting help with whatever kind of problems they each deal with: substance abuse, money issues, relationships, sex. THESE ARE NOT HARMLESS THINGS. Connecting real life information to someone within these protected environments can be extremely debilitating to someone in recovery. It may also discourage people from reaching out and getting the help they need.

    I’m in on any complaints to be filed. I’m also inquiring into this issue with the major 12 step organizations to see if there’s anything they feel they may be able to do. I really have no idea.

  125. By Ahmad Feizir on May 15, 2011 | Reply

    I’ve had 2 occasions now where I’ve searched old colleagues from way back on LinkedIn and lo and behold within a day those people have asked to be my contact on LinkedIn.
    So it’s obvious, if you search someone on LinkedIn, LinkedIn will indirectly tell them this by suggesting to them they link up with you.
    Pretty underhand and annoying if you ask me. Facebook does the same I’m sure.

  126. By Angie on May 19, 2011 | Reply

    It’s really not all that complicated. Linkedin is showing names of people who have searched for you at some point in a majority of the complaints above.

  127. By Not Really Anonymous on May 22, 2011 | Reply

    Ok, there is definitely something “possibly illegal” going on here. I’m not a lawyer but I’m thinking it might not be a bad idea to contact the Eletronic Frontiers Foundation ( regarding this. I have a facebook, it doesn’t have my full name (against their wishes) but I do leave myself logged in. Now I’m seeing people who are my facebook friends show up on linkedin even though I’ve never connected the two accounts to my knowledge. These are people I’ve never e-mailed, and I used separate e-mail addresses for both services. I used my full name for linked in and so it’s very disconcerting to see people show up from facebook on linkedin.

    Ok, I know realize that my yahoo address book contains a list of contacts I pulled from facebook. And the people match up on there. I don’t think I ever gave linkedin permission to read my addressbook. But I’m sure this is where the dots were connected with their suggestion wizard. So by at one time pulling my facebook data onto my yahoo account I ended up granting linkedin and others permission to datamine my private contact list ? I don’t think so, but I’ll see what the EFF says. Since they are the number one entity to deal with privacy concerns in a legal framework. I’ll post back here if they say anything of note.

  128. By john on May 24, 2011 | Reply

    they folks they recommend as possible contacts are all in my address book. i’m reasonably sure they’re reading my address book without my permission.

  129. By Eek--how terribly embarrassing! on May 24, 2011 | Reply

    I think the moral of this story/thread is simple: if you are someone of reasonably sound mind, that up until recently had a naive understanding about the way the internet works, you, like myself are filled with shock and humiliation as you consider all those “nostalgic” or nosy thought-to-be-private-at-the-time searches you conducted in the past! You are even more annoyed to know that now newly wizened you have ceased such searches…but these sites (LI and FB) continue to make it seem to these once-searched parties that you are some mad obsessed stalker who cannot give up the “drug” of searching for them. It gives you the not-unlikely sense that your reputation with these parties is sinking to an all time low due to this (now falsely created perception thanks to FB and LI continuing to recycle your name and plant it on their profiles, though you have long since ceased to search these tenuously-connected to your life individuals. Oh and it gets better–should these parties be in any way connected to your employment life, this means they are next to uselfess as references, since gad knows what they should say, now that they think of you as some crazy stalker wackjob. And to think instead you were just a little bored and curious–and get this–under the incredibly stupid impression the internet was anonymous!!! Lovely, just lovely! Since of course this relates to me, all I can say is I will definitely hide if I should ever chance upon these individuals in real life, and I can only hope I never encounter them again! Ugh…lesson learned with massive wounds to pride: NEVER SEARCH ANYONE ONLINE AGAIN!!!
    Oh ,and I’ve had my share of being creeped out in turn by PIMKs on my Linked in…never considering how minor I might have been to the person who searched for me, never considering how benign their motives were ..which just goes to show how very protective all of us are of our privacy, assuming the scariest version of truth first! If these companies were more upfront about how they disclose info it would be easier to distinguish the curious from the seriously unstable web presences out there.

  130. By DB on Jun 1, 2011 | Reply

    I am so glad I found this thread. I confess to being brand new on LinkedIn, but I have used LinkedIn for at least a year (with this computer) because I do transcription, and I find LinkedIn the finest source to confirm the spelling of someone’s name. Everyone is on there.

    Here’s what scared me to death.

    I received an email from an ex (who is not dangerous, but close to 90 years old) saying, “Deb, is that YOU???”

    Now, I know for a fact he is nowhere in any address list (I don’t keep them). I don’t have Facebook. I couldn’t import my Outlook list because it’s a private email address, and he isn’t on there anywhere.

    I do confess to browsing (and this is what scares me) for his name, as he is world renowned. I don’t remember looking for him on LinkedIn (I might have), so that’s my dilemma.

    When I’m looking to confirm a name, I put it in Google and then when I see they’re on LinkedIn, I still go into LinkedIn to look at the record, because many people have the same name. If it’s an unusual name, I may not. I also look up potential clients.

    It’s down to two things, and I’d love to know which:

    (a) Either I did look for this ex- on LinkedIn, which is highly unlikely as he is older and I doubt he would be on there. He was famous long before LinkedIn. But it’s possible. I don’t remember.

    (b) Much scarier, and also likely, is that it is reading my Google searches. I just read that your searches stay in your cookies for 180 days.

    I hope someone will tell me that it is (a) and not (b), but I can’t imagine searching for this particular person on LinkedIn.

    Can they actually go into my system and read my searches based on my IP?

    I would love to know this, as it will permanently change any personal searches I do.

    Thanks! Deb

  131. By Chad on Jun 14, 2011 | Reply

    I just opened a facebook account in order to contact a cousin. I said no to importing contacts of any kind and had only searched my cousins name. The people you may know was full with people from my yahoo messanger list to people I was penpals with when i was in the navy in 2001. Another troubling instance was a girl came up whom I traveled to maine to visit years back and who said she had not searched on me from facebook because she is on myspace. Ive heard and researched numerous articles stating that facebook and google are associated with a cia database and now are actually able to use facebook as well as google to try people for drimes on search alone. It is called precrime and it is held up in court.

  132. By Amy on Jun 17, 2011 | Reply

    I am glad to find this thread, I recently got a you may know a few groups that share my interests, the only way linkedin could have gotten that info is from mining my emails as I rarely even go onto linkedin without a request. I would happily join in on a complaint.

  133. By Cathy on Aug 4, 2011 | Reply

    All of this is privacy stuff is fairly alarming and I am glad I found this site. I’ve seen names on LI of a stalker from college (20+ years ago) that showed up. I don’t care to connect w/ them, and don’t know how they turned up on the list (N0 connections there). I don’t want my name on their list either! This happened many months ago, and they are circulating again now. Did they look me up a couple of times for this to happen? Or is it just sheer coincidence (I think not). If they did search for me, then one could infer that alot of the 3rd connections (LI) and no connections/shared friends (FB) came from actual searches. Seems to be no other connectivity there on many of these, and that’s downright scary! I’m also asking bc I searched a couple of times for someone I dated once in HS on FB. We were friends then, but it is irritating if he knows I have looked him up, as we have no commonalities now. His is a fairly regular name, like Smith, and I could not find him (no photo, no city, limited data for several “same-name” guys). About a month later, he showed up on FB with a photo and limited FB data on my PYMK list. And in a week or so later, he is on my LI PYMK list as a 3rd connection (new account, no photo though). Its been months and now his name is recirculating again in LI. How does this happen?

    So, can someone kindly answer 3 questions please: 1) If someone not even remotely in your circle (via email, FB, etc) that you don’t know/connect with anymore pops up on your LinkedIn account as a PYMK, does that definitely mean THEY searched for YOU? 2) If a name surfaces again as a PYMK, does that mean the LI list just recirculates periodically, or does it mean this person actually searched for me again? (a little spooky). and 3) If the LI PYMK list continues to recirculate, does someone I searched for a long time ago continue to see me on their PYMK list? If so, that is upsetting, as it gives the misconception that I search for them every two weeks. Not so at all! What is even wierder is that when this HS guy shows up on LI, about two weeks later, his son (who has his same name) shows up on my PYMK list. So do I show up on his too? I do not remember clicking on the son’s link on FB at all, unless it was in the beginning (unsuccessful) search.

    I agree with “Eek” in that if these companies were more upfront about how they disclose info it would be easier to distinguish the curious from the seriously unstable web crazies out there. I would also be slightly less inclined to worry if there was some rationale (such as a recirculating list.) In the case of an innocent search where someone may show up on my LI PYMK account once, I guess I can live with that, although it is an invasion of privacy. What really upsets me is IF somehow my name is recycling on their list(s), like some “Groundhog Day” recurring nightmare.

  134. By Kat on Sep 2, 2011 | Reply

    Hm… I kinda do still wonder! I never imported any contacts, have a profile that barely has my name and just two LinkedIn connex, so the whole algorithm doesn’t really make sense, since you need data to compare for that to work, right?! It’s a little too close to home what they come up with without “officially” knowing anything about me or my contacts…

  135. By Creepy! on Sep 20, 2011 | Reply

    I was looking through my PYMK list when I came across an ex-boyfriend and the owner of a company I worked for over seven years ago. I haven’t searched for either of these people, and did not include any information about the previous position I had held my profile. Additionally, I do not have a facebook account and have had no online contact with these people in any way. To be honest, I find it hard to believe that they had searched for me, since we have not spoken in such a long period of time. Lastly, I set up my linkedin account using a brand new e-mail address which had no contacts or correspondence with anyone. Another issue– the property manager of my apartment building showed up on my PYMK list as well. She had only one connection, and so I know for a FACT that she would not search me out, as I have only spoken with briefly regarding the unit we leased. How did linkedin obtain this information? I can only guess that it somehow found my address and made the connection.

    I do not use social networking websites because of privacy concerns, but made an exception for linkedin, I am now reconsidering this decision. If anyone has any information on some kind of formal complaint, please let us know.

  136. By CovBob on Oct 1, 2011 | Reply

    As others have said, all of this is unsettling. I think really the only practical solution to this is to download and install VMWare Player, Virtual Box or similar freeware software.

    Use this software to install a Linux virtual machine. This is very easy and it basically is to just let you run a browser completely disconnected from your desktop except for cut and paste.

    Use this virtual machine browser ONLY for Linked-in. Use another one ONLY for Facebook. NEVER use any of your email accounts from either of these virtual machines.

    Set them to erase ALL cookies at the end of each session. Then lets see what these intrusive “social” applications can figure out.

    I did an experiment and it had very scary results. I didn’t do it from a virtual machine however.

    On my normal machine, I loaded TOR to give me a false IP address, I erased all cookies. I then obtained a fake ten-minute life email address and setup a Facebook account under an assumed name supposedly in the Netherlands.

    After setting up the account, I then told my buddy who asked me to PLEASE get a Facebook account and he friended my fake name.

    Four days after I accepted his friend request, Facebook suggested two of his friends that my false persona might know. Well, somehow Facebook knew who I was because the real me knew both people as former co-workers of myself and the friend. How of his 200 friends, did it pick the two I knew?

    It knew this despite my using a fake name, fake email address and an IP address from outside of my country.

    I think the only protection has to be using virtual machines which, as I described above, have single-purpose usage. All of this is beyond creepy and more than disturbing.

    -Bob, maybe.

  137. By JB on Oct 5, 2011 | Reply

    I hav enot logged into my linked in account for years. I have no facebook account. When I logged in it shoed me possible ccontacts that could have only come from scanning my email contact list AND folders containing email messages (with addresses).

    This is so creepy. I canceled tha ccount and told them I was going to push this issue. I tried going to TrustE to file a complaint, but it said that linkedin is not a licensee.

    It’s getting bad folks. Not only are they tracking us, they are scanning our computers too.

    Please, no replies that are so convoluted and complicated. K.I.S.S.

    There is NO way they could have made those suggestions without access to my email.

  138. By steve smith on Oct 5, 2011 | Reply

    Hi, just Googled “linkedIn what do you do when you know someone has stolen from you”. And came to this…site.

    Today I joined Linkedin through a friend and was amazed to see someone I was asked to “Link-up with” as the same person who stole a lot of money from me several years ago. Obviously I have not connected with him yet. Anyone out there know how I can get my money back?

    Or do I just tell everyone on my Linkedin -DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN, HE’S A THIEF!

    Any advise welcome


  139. By JToke on Oct 7, 2011 | Reply

    Thank you so much for this thread! I am convinced linkedin has somehow gone through my MAC MAILBOX or ADDRESS BOOK to suggest connections. It recently suggested 2 professional connections to me that I have only had email contact with in the past and no social media connection with at all. I had sent the 2 suggested contacts email in the past. Otherwise, no other social media connections at all.

    Fuck you Linkedin. I’m out.

  140. By Juraj on Oct 13, 2011 | Reply

    Dear all,
    could someone explain me (very very long discussion here, so if there is answer, sorry for this) how it is possible, that immediately after registration to linkedin it shows me in “people you may know” people who i really now? It was secon or third step of registration, immediately after confirming registration via email. I did not allow linkedin to search my email or so. This registration I did on PC I use not more than two weeks. Thank you.

  141. By RonB on Nov 16, 2011 | Reply

    I have long suspected that my G-mail account was being scanned by Linkedin with the permission of Google Mail. “People You May Know” are showing up in Linkedin’s Updates regarding people whom I have not contacted, other than via my G-Mail account. They are not in any of my contact lists, G-mail, Hot-mail or Linkedin. Occasionally, I will see a reference, at my in frequently used Linkedin Account, suggesting “People You May Know”. Since, I don’t hang around to see every possible connection, every hour of the day, the right hand column often shows people I’ve e-mailed in the past. But, none are listed in any of my contact lists. The only time a contact was made with “People You May Know” was through my G-mail account.

    The best explanation, for seeing these “People You May Know”, is that someone, in my short list of 19 Linkedin contacts, knows these people and I’m linked through them somehow. After receiving a recent Linkedin Update on “People You May Know”, it showed 2 names out of 4 names that I just sent an e-mail to last week. Coincidence, I don’t think so.

    How do I report this invasion of privacy?

  142. By simone on Nov 20, 2011 | Reply

    @ [original] Peter, I am on board to file the query or complaint to TrustE.

    Just say the word.

    There are many stories or occurances above that mirror mine.

    I have avoided joining any online social network sites since they have proved to be an utter violation of my privacy. I had a facebook account which I “deleted” over a year ago as a result of feeling overly exposed and violated. A month ago, I logged back in to see if the account was in fact deleted. No such thing. It was deactivated. Seems since then, FB have listened to users about wanting the option to fully delete, in which case, I then changed all information – such as email address – and deleted all contents and then actually “deleted” the account. I can only hope the info was deleted.

    Moving on to Linkedin, after many recommendations about the sites usefulness and respect of privacy, I joined. Since it is more a professional based website, I set it up using my gmail account. Of course, I avoided using the “add contacts from email address book” tool and yet, without seeking/searching to connect certain individuals, many contacts from my gmail address book were showing up in the “people you may know” section. Some people were ex friends or ex boyfriends that the mere sight of sent me into a mild anxiety attack and fueled warranted anger.

    I’ve been reading the comments above regarding the notion that whilst I may have not merged my gmail address book contacts, perhaps the said people I’d prefer to avoid (who are showing up in “people you may know”) have merged THEIR email contacts. I’ve also considered the notion that perhaps they are being suggested based on previous Linkedin searches or perhaps google searches.

    Let me state some facts that completely refute these possibilities…

    There are 4 contacts thus far that have appeared in my “people you may know” that whilst THEY may have merged their address books with THEIR Linkedin accounts (idiots) meaning I may appear in THEIR “people you may know”, how is it possible that they are people being suggested for me when I have not merged mine? Secondly, one of the suggestions in particular; I unfortunately know well enough to know that he would in no way on this planet merge his contacts to HIS email since we’ve shared lengthy discussion in the past about our concerns with regards to online privacy and ways we go about avoiding being a victim of violation. I have NEVER been connected via facebook with this particular individual that is being suggested to me. AND my gmail account was never initially linked to my facebook. Nor was it when I changed the email address before deleting. How in the hell is this particular individual coming up as a person suggestion in my Linkedin?

    Needless to say, I set up a whole new email address and added it to Linkedin and removed my original gmail email address. I doubt that will make a difference the info they have already “raped” from my gmail contacts. Or, do you think it will, Peter?

    To digress, I have one more question since we are on the topic of privacy and discretion…

    I do not have a google plus account/profile. Neither do I use the picasa picture storing facility. Yet, I do have a gmail account and stay logged in pretty much all the time. In the event that I am logged into gmail and open a new window tab and go to google and search an individual who DOES have a gmail account AND/OR a picasa/google plus profile, will that user see that I have browsed his/her profile?

    Please advise.

    I’m really quite annoyed with how technologies advancements in online interaction has stripped an individuals right to privacy and discretion. Must we return to the dark ages to retain some privacy?

    Anyway, Peter, please advise on the above and how you would like to proceed with taking up this seemingly questionable obtaining of information via Linkedin since their privacy policy (and your direct response from the sites admin/customer service) state otherwise.



  143. By Carl on Dec 6, 2011 | Reply

    I received a people you may know contact from an old freind that I had not had contact with in more than thirty. We were very close friends at one point but we had lost contact. We had both moved to different states several times. We grew up in the same town and attended college together. But beyond that there is nothing to connect the two of us. I am completely bewildered.

  144. By Sam on Dec 7, 2011 | Reply

    LinkedIn definitely does something shady with the people you may know feature. I have a linkedin account with an email address that I only use professionally. I also play an online game with people from all over. Obviously the people I game with don’t have the email address I use on linkedin – most dont even know my real name, and since I don’t exactly know these people, I am not googling them, nor am I connected to them on facebook, yet linkedin suggests them on PYMK. I have also had people I went to college and high school with that don’t have this new email address suggested. I was creeped out enough that I started googling this.

    Only thing I can think of is that linkedin combs my other email accounts and that is ridiculous.

  145. By Sussed It? on Dec 9, 2011 | Reply

    I would say it is very highly likely they make use of Facebook connections of one’s partner. My 12 year old daughter’s friend’s father is a facebook friend of my wife. He showed up as someone I might know. The only other possibility is if he searched for me sometime, which I guess is possible. The latter seems even more scary than the former!

  146. By sam on Dec 11, 2011 | Reply

    i asked linkedin cust support about this people you may know since some very odd people were appearing in my list without being people i actually know and instead just people i have liaised with once or twice. i never imported contacts and avoided that like the plague.

    it seems linkedin takes an approach that is to just repeat and reveal very little.

    here’s an exchange i had with linkedin cust support about this:
    So, to be clear, there have been no contacts imported from my gmail address book, right? The only contacts/invitations that have been sent out are those that i manually requested in my sent inbox, yes? And the ‘people you may know’ suggestions (where people that I have no connection with and are not in my network and were people that I had liaised with on one occasion over 2 years ago regarding rentals or
    purchases via craigslist) were coincidental?

    Please confirm so I am 100% clear.
    In advance, I appreciate you tending to this query.

    linkedin support:
    You are correct.

    Please let me know if you have further questions and thanks for using LinkedIn!


    LinkedIn Customer Service

  147. By Anon on Dec 13, 2011 | Reply

    A person keeps showing up on my ‘people you may know list’ who used to stalk me on a photosharing site and then used to bombard with emails to my gmail account. I deleted my email account and the photosite 3 years ago and now I feel sick every time I log in and see his name because it means he’s found me again and now knows where I work probably.

    I feel anxious just waiting for him to make contact – but think that may be he likes the idea that he is popping up on my linked-in homepage and there’s nothing I can do it about it. Or maybe he has just been looking at my profile?

    Linked-in can’t assure me that they can remove him from my ‘people you may know’ stream without reporting him – which they can’t do as he hasn’t done anything wrong (yet).

    The stalker mentality is complicated aswell – if they were to contact him and say this girl has contacted us to say she doesn’t want you to contact her – then he will read that as ‘aha she has been thinking about me, I have an effect on her’ and will redouble his efforts to harrass me.

    I wish there was a way to simply block people so that the two accounts never ‘meet’.

    For those people saying “This is social networking – what did you expect?” I’d like to counter that if in the real world there are unpleasant people that you would avoid by crossing the street that you should be able to do the same online.

    I feel this is discriminatory because it only leaves me (and others like me) the option of cancelling linked-in and then I would be at a professional disadvantage from my peers – having a significant real-world impact.

    The outcome of this so far is that I’m just living with the anxiety and hoping that he will eventually go away. But if he starts to contact me again and I’ll delete my linked account.

  148. By MRW on Dec 14, 2011 | Reply

    Everyone: look into installing Ghostery. It’s free. It stops about 700 firms (the list increases!) that are tracking your every movement on the web. You may have to make some adjustments to be able to see videos on sites like HuffPo, but with some tweaking you can figure it out. On a Mac, you right-click to access the program to set the level of security you want. Everytime you visit a site, every company that is tracking that site shows up in the upper right corner for a few seconds, and if you’ve banned it, there’s a strike through the name. I banned Google and Google Analytics. I recently changed computers and haven’t reinstalled Ghostery yet. I am getting daily, sometimes twice daily, emails from LinkedIn with ‘people you may know’. There’s a site Google that name and Ghostery and privacy for another privacy tip to go along with Ghostery. Can’t remember what it was right now, but I will within the next 24 hours.

    Ghostery combined with a VPN like (fee)–gives you https from your computer and back from a selection of gateways around the world on the fly–you can build some semblance of privacy.

    Peter, in his thoughtful posts above, stresses that LinkedIn customer service says no, it has nothing to do with Facebook. But I’ll bet a day’s wages that they have something to do with one of these 700 data trackers. And I’m sure Facebook sells their data to one of them too.

  149. By courtney on Jan 9, 2012 | Reply

    After reading all the comments here there seems to be 2 common denominators. Google and FB. I believe they are buying and/or trading info with both FB and Google/G-mail. I also do not think they are tracking our cookies because:
    1. I have a FB account with TOTALLY fake info and an e-mail specific ONLY to that account – nothing in-common with LI.
    2. NONE of my FB searches or contacts have ever showed up as PYMK on LI.
    3. I do not ever use Goggle. NONE of my Bing searches have ever showed up on LI as PYMK.
    4. I have been very sloppy about deleting cookies of late therefore they would be there when I’ve logged into LI
    5.I do not use G-mail. Only 4 PYMK are actually people I have a connection if somewhat tenuous with and I am guessing they either have G-mail or allowed LI to datamine their contacts (puke!)
    7. The other PYMK are strangers who have sent me invites or profiles I’ve looked at on LI or are connected to one of my very few connections
    7. This practice of unauthorized sharing of personal information is despicable, should be disclosed and should be illegal!

  150. By Brian on Jan 18, 2012 | Reply

    I’m convinced without a doubt that linkedin (and facebook) access email accounts without authorization. They also suggest contacts based on searches by others.

  151. By diane on Jan 26, 2012 | Reply

    I’m not on FB and regularly get “people you may know” suggestions that are personal contacts who I have emailed but otherwise have no online connection to – no google search or other. Linkedin must be using email contacts.

  152. By molly/s on Jan 30, 2012 | Reply

    this website is disturbing…some while ago I was e-mailing thru a high school alumni site someone who peaked my interest and I his….the e-mails continued until the relationship soured and he lost interest…now I get thru linkln that he want to reach me which I heartily doubt…(if he wanted to he there are other ways to reach me besides linkln) But I worry that my name is appearing on his mail likwise indicating that I wish to get in touch w/him, which I certainly don’t wish him to suppose…..
    this who thing is an invasion of privacy and seems heading towards “Big Brother”….

  153. By Travis on Feb 3, 2012 | Reply

    Usually when I get an email from LinkedIn that they are suggesting “People I May Know” it makes total sense and there is no doubt how they made the connection through the grapevine.

    This morning, on the other hand, when I got the “PYMK” suggestions, there was one very odd suggestion that stuck out.

    I did, in fact know this person although, there is no digital, internet, email, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, or 50th secondary person I know connection, in fact there is no connection other than person to person, via telephone, and a personal home address connection (the owner of the guest house I live in). The thing is that I’ve NEVER been connected to this person via LinkedIn and I’ve never made my personal home address available as public domain via LinkedIn, Facebook, My Personal Website, or anywhere else that didn’t involve some sort of secure transaction via PayPal or other source.

    I regularly clear my cookies and history after every browsing session (I’m kinda OCD) but even if that wasn’t the case, there would be no connection via the internet way of websites I’ve visited or email to connect me to this person. I also run NoScript which is a very efficient add-on for preventing 3rd party scripts, and code to be running in the background of websites.

    This single mishap alone has left me to believe that LinkedIn is using other resources to gain information about you other than what you provide via LinkedIn or the Internet. They have gone past the digital spectrum to a whole different 3rd party source. The only way they would have been able to find this information is scouring public domain via Postal, City, State records that are made public including mailing address, etc. Is this legal?

    Anyone’s input on this would be greatly appreciated.


  154. By Peter on Feb 12, 2012 | Reply

    Travis, do you know if this person has searched for you on LinkedIn? We have some anecdotal evidence that this will cause that person to be added to your PYMK list.

  155. By Jorje on Feb 13, 2012 | Reply

    I do not use facebook.
    I have only just signed up to linkedin after years of staying away.

    I have had people on my list recently that I have never heard of, and one guy who I emailed ONCE only ONCE about 4 years ago. He responded once and I did not contact him again.
    Again this happened four years ago!!
    So how, all of a sudden does he show up on my list?

    Again no facebook, no searches for this guy I am not even using the same computer or hard drive either. I have had about six computers since this contact.
    In fact I don’t even have the same email address, I have a completely different address now.
    I am getting people on my list that I have ONLY ever had minimal email contact with and nothing else.

    This really is ridiculous and it is creepy and I am opting out asap.

  156. By Sue on Feb 14, 2012 | Reply

    I think some of the people on here are way too paranoid to be on a social networking site.

    Who CARES how they suggest connections? If you are on the internet you should not get all anal retentive about your “privacy.”

    The whole POINT of being on Linked in, or any other site, is to make connections. They might not be friends, clients or referral sources YET – but it’s a Kevin Bacon world and you never know when a connection with someone will bring something wonderful into your life.

    If you want to shut yourself off from the world and interact only with people you already know – get off the internet and just pick up the phone and call them.

    Just saying…

  157. By Travis on Feb 16, 2012 | Reply

    I recently found out that they did indeed search for me on LinkedIn which was the result of the PYMK. Thanks for the reply!

    The point is that LinkedIn is not a “social” networking site. It’s a Professional Networking site, therefore I shouldn’t be getting contacted by or connected to people on a non-professional basis.

    The problems there lie within the fact that people like you treat it like a “social” networking site. The results of this attitude are turning it into a completely non-professional social network.

    I have full control over where/who/how my info is getting put out there on the internet so when it shows up in a way that I know was impossible based on the security measures I practice, it gets a little questionable.

    Just sayin….

  158. By el on Mar 13, 2012 | Reply

    I rarely use LinkedIn and only have 3 contacts. The “People You May Know” section suggests people I have looked up, but also people who I have emailed–the editor of a newspaper in a neighboring state and someone I asked a question of at a particular company. These names are not in my email contacts list and I have not written these people more than once. They have no idea who I am. Just something to think about.

  159. By Caroline on Mar 19, 2012 | Reply

    John, I think you’re absolutely right! I keep seeing old (10 + years ago) boyfriends pop up…no other connect. Not in my email, not on Facebook, Twitter, etc… So it’s got to be they are searching for you. Now, this is NOT always the case, but sometimes it is.

  160. By Amy on Mar 24, 2012 | Reply

    Here’s one for you. Last year I went to Rwanda for work and we had a tour guide that some of us connected with via Skype, email, and Facebook after the trip. He has an unusual name, and he speaks English but not French. He is a tour guide who works for cash and does not even know what LinkedIn is.

    Today, his name popped up as a “people you may know” suggestion. I was quite surprised to see this, and when I clicked on the link it took me to a profile for another man from Rwanda with the same name, whose profile is entirely in French.

    Because the person LinkedIn recommended is someone I do not know, there is no chance he was searching for me. Likewise, nobody I know has connected with that person because he is clearly not the tour guide we met last year. LinkedIn absolutely must be accessing my other data, probably Facebook, and made a recommendation when it saw a profile in Rwanda that seemed to match one of my Facebook contacts. There is no other possible explanation.

  161. By Joey on Mar 30, 2012 | Reply

    Yes, LinkedIn continues to access your e-mail account (gmail, yahoo, etc) if you give them access (password) to look for potential contacts during your initial LinkedIn set-up. Changing your e-mail password should prevent future access by LinkedIn.

  162. By Rachel on May 28, 2012 | Reply

    I have had strange experiences as well. One recent one is where my linkedin has actually connected me to someone I did not approve. Yet, I do not see him as one my connections on linkedin.

  163. By Rachel on May 28, 2012 | Reply

    to clarify, I received an e-mail stating ‘congratulations, you are now connected to John Doe’

  164. By Larry on Jun 5, 2012 | Reply

    Recently I was searching through a list of classmates from my college through linkedin. I found about 10 classmates I remembered, and opened their public links to view their linkedin profiles. Of these 10 people I have had no contact with any of them since college 20 years ago. Later, just two of these 10 people showed up in the “people you might know” box. I was wondering why just two of the 10 people whose profiles I viewed would show in this box, and not all 10?

  165. By DLane on Jun 9, 2012 | Reply

    I would like to chime in my concerns about how LinkedIn is making these so called “People you may know” connections.

    I have noticed this for some time now. I currently have at least 7 people that there should be no way LinkedIn should connect us UNLESS they are using sources outside of their own databases and that I allow them access to from mine. I am sort of a freak about MY privacy and use a lot of methods to shroud it so that cross connections are difficult at best.

    The creepy thing is that I have 2 people that the ONLY way LinkedIn could connect them is if they are hacking my computer or email…and THAT email would be one other than the one I use for LinkedIn. These 2 people are sisters…and half-sisters to my nephew. He NEVER knew his biological father and until a few years ago didn’t know about the 2 half-sisters. He has not and does not wish to make any connection to any of that family. I know about them because I was asked to look for his father some years ago because he was expressing some questions about his biological father at the time. I personally have never met the 2 sisters (I did know the father) and have never made contact with either of the sisters, the biological father or any of their extended family. But those 2 sisters are listed as “people I may know” in LinkedIn. The ONLY info that I have for them is in a txt file on my computer. About 5 years ago I sent a copy of that file via email (one different from the one I registered with LinkedIn) to my nephew’s mother. AND THAT IS IT….how does LinkedIn know of them?

    Another on my list is a guy that was a classmate in junior high years whose family went away and it was reported that he had died later. I was surprised years later to run into him alive and well. We stayed in touch for about a year and then I moved to another state and we have had no contact in any form since. That was 25 years ago. To my knowledge none of our other classmates from that time know that he in fact is still alive to this day. About a year ago, I happen to see a news report about him so I called the news station to see if they could connect us…I never heard back. THAT is the extent of any search or connection I have with him in 25 years. I DID mention seeing him on the news to a friend at the time via email (again, not the email I signed up with at LinkedIn) He is listed now on LinkedIn as someone I might know. The ONLY conclusion I can make is that LinkedIn IS in some way hacking my computer or email account and not only using my email list but they HAVE to be reading the emails.

    I would be interested in the comments for this.

  166. By emily on Jul 14, 2012 | Reply

    Please, someone explain to me how this is possible!!

    My partner joined LinkedIn two weeks ago. I have never had a LinkedIn account and neither of us has Facebook. Suggested contacts for him include a student I tutored a few years ago, a current colleague of mine, and my step-brother.

    It gets weirder… He has had four contacts suggested who are parents of children I babysat or taught before I met him four years ago. None of the four would know each other. He has never met them or even heard their names before. We have lived in a different country for a almost a year. His university is listed on LI, and it is in the city where these four people live. But it is a city of half a million people, and somehow, of the thirty or so total people LinkedIn has recommended, I know four of them AND I have a the same relationship with all four.

    Does anyone have any explanation for this?!

  167. By Poorni Pillai on Jul 30, 2012 | Reply

    I have quite a few stories too. It’s really weird and sometimes upsetting when you open your inbox and see the name and pic of someone from the past you want nothing to do with- and the only way LinkedIn could have gotten that info is through Gmail or Facebook. Sucks big time.

  168. By joy on Aug 17, 2012 | Reply

    I have asked Linkedin to explain how the’someone you may know’ is so accurate and also some names were NOT in my contacts lists but there had been maybe 1 email. Since receiving an incomprehensible reply from a customer support person for whom English is their second language; amazingly the ‘someone you may know’ has changed and I don’t recognise any of the names. Was this rigged to prove me wrong?

  169. By Lisa on Oct 9, 2012 | Reply

    LinkedIn creeps me out and I cannot think of any way it could know about a contractor I hired once as “People I May Know” unless it snooped my private GMAIL account.

  170. By sophia on Nov 9, 2012 | Reply

    mabe a logical explanation about the issue of people you actually know but have no common friends or jobs or whatever with showing up as suggestions in social media is that those people have actualy searched and looked up your profile!! or even have searched your name before you even had a profile!! they looked you up, so they know you, so mabe you know them, so why not suggest them to you ;-)
    true about the duck but sometimes things may be as simple as the obvious

  171. By Chip on Nov 24, 2012 | Reply

    This is indeed very scary. For me the privacy matters as I am still a full time employee but am creating a diff profile on LinkedIn for my new business which my employer isn’t aware of. I had my browser cache cleaned up, created a brand new email account and then created a LinkedIn account with absolutely no connections or info of my past. One week later, LinkedIn is suggesting my colleagues as people I should know!!!

  172. By Mary on Nov 26, 2012 | Reply

    Emily (July 14), I have a theory, and your experience fits into it well. Do you and your partner share a computer? If so, I think they’re connecting you via IP address. I just signed up for a LinkedIn account using an assumed name and a brand-new e-mail address. Upon registration — after having said “no” to the site’s request to import my address book — up popped 50 of my colleagues at work as proposed “people you may know.” My theory is that they trace my IP address and then connect it to my company name. In your case, it may be even simpler: just connecting your IP address to your partner’s shared/identical IP address. Does this sound right to anyone else? I use LinkedIn for research purposes and don’t want my account leaving tracks all over others’ accounts…

  173. By andy on Nov 29, 2012 | Reply

    -> Groups, Companies & Applications
    –> Manage settings for Liinkedin third party sites
    —> UNCHECK “Yes, allow LinkedIn to receive information about my visits to pages that use LinkedIn plugins”

    —> Turn on/off data sharing with 3rd party applications [Set it to OFF]

    Also, give people a different e-mail than what is associated with your Linkedin profile. If other people give access to their address books, then Linkedin knows you’re linked.

  174. By andy on Nov 29, 2012 | Reply

    Also, if somebody searches for you by name, Linkedin now knows your linked and they may start showing up in the people you know. It is really creepy that women I recently met, that are in no way linked to me, show up soon after I go on only one date with them. No facebook linking, no address book linking from my side. The only explanation is either they link their address book or they search for me by name.

  175. By I hate social networking on Dec 7, 2012 | Reply

    Here is another reason why I hate social networking sites. Instead of making friends in the real world, now, social networking websites go to extremes to recommend ‘friends’ to you, as if it is a competition for us to see who has the most contacts. I very recently joined LinkedIn reluctantly. I do not use any other social networking website and I did not import my email contacts, nor have I added detailed profile information. I put the current university I am at and that is it. However, LinkedIn is recommending people I know from primary school and High School, but I haven’t added any possible mutual friends (in fact my added contacts are both actual professionals, and not young social networking addicts). How are they doing this? I have started hating them the moment they recommended the first contact (which is immediately following my signing up) and i want to delete my account already. I do not believe the “Terrific Data mining” or “Getting information from other social networking sites.” I don’t use any other social networking sites. I didn’t join LinkedIn to socialise, I joined it to find professionals for work. Anyone know how they know who to recommend?

  176. By Chris on Dec 14, 2012 | Reply

    Hmmm… created a new LinkedIn account. Fake name, fake city, fake company. No connections, no other information. Disposable email address. Did not authorize any connection to my contacts, Google account, Facebook, etc. I did one search for a person I don’t know at a different company in a different city. LinkedIn now suggests many of my current co-workers as “People you may know.” In fact, ALL of its suggestions are current co-workers. I did all this from work – it has to be using my IP address. I guess that’s fair game, but feels a bit slimy.

  177. By the man on Feb 8, 2013 | Reply

    I think it also checks names you have googled and proposes them. Pretty sure of it.

  178. By Doug on Feb 14, 2013 | Reply

    Linkedin is accessing our private emails. I am continuously getting “Other People You May Know” messages that could only come from the private emails I have forwarded to contacts through my employers computer systems. These are people that I am providing estimates for construction projects and that is the only thing we have in common. They purposely throw in a couple random names of people that I have never heard of to make it look like random. I have two names in front of me right now that could only have come from my Outlook mail messages. Give it a couple of years and you will see Linkedin in the courts system.

  179. By Melissa on Mar 2, 2013 | Reply

    Unfair system. They know every move of ours, and we don’t know theirs. Linkedin, if you are reading this as I am sure you will; well done for succeeding in the footsteps of Big Brother. I am sure you know exactly what to do with all the information. As someone previously mentioned; deleting your linkedin profile won’t make a change, the information is neatly stored; very clever; welcome to the 21st century, I guess.

  180. By Dave on Mar 11, 2013 | Reply

    Long blog!!! I just texted an attorney last week that I have had no contact with for years, a do you know popped up on link in within 36 hours. Are text private at all?

  181. By Kathy on Mar 12, 2013 | Reply

    Big data, I’ve read 2013 is the year for “realevant” email …from the mouths of marketers. Uh-oh. Recently heard a father angry that Target knew his teen daughter was pregnant before he did bec Target was sending her online diaper coupons. She had looked up a lotion used for reducing stretch marks.
    My PYMK suggests a customer svc person that i emailed 5yrs ago. I’ve never looked her up, nor do I think she’s ever looked me up – the impetus for being on this string.
    Has anyone looked at Wolfram Alpha’s new Analytics for FB? oh, and it’s free ;-)
    This could give some insight on connections. I agree that these data miner/brokers enable our trusty LI and FB to claim “We’re” not snooping.

  182. By kevin on Mar 12, 2013 | Reply

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s experienced this eerie oddity. I signed up for linkedin about an hour ago, and a “You May Know” by the name of Nate showed up (the first name on the list).

    About three years ago I sold Nate a computer through craigslist. There was e-mail correspondence, but it’s been long since deleted, along with his email address and all contact info.

    According to linkedin, Nate is an employee of a company I have been doing Google searches of lately. There has been no e-mails sent to that company, so the only thing tying us together is my Google searches.

    It’s now giving me “You May Know”‘s of every employee of that company, with Nate constantly popping up as the first person on that list.

    In summary, at a quick observation, either linkedin pulled data from my e-mail somehow (from DELETED e-mails and DELETED contacts), and/or is snooping my Google searches.

    Keep in mind that there are more occurrences than just Nate, with the same creepy vibe, but under different circumstances.

    This is very disturbing to me…I think my account with linkedin will be short lived.

  183. By Wiliam Robertson on Mar 13, 2013 | Reply


    I signed up for linkedin a few years ago and briefly glanced then signed out ..tonight I got an email from them. And got spooked and found this thread. 5 names were all people I know. One I had not had any contact with in 13 years at least. I really doubt I am on any of their contact lists in outlook and very much doubt they would all join linked in upload them. Some are customers that are not web or email savvy. One is a guy I bought my house from 7 years ago and we emailed once but never Facebooked.. I am going to log in and check some more then cancel. I do npot want to be found by some of these people.

  184. By Stephanie on Mar 18, 2013 | Reply

    Well, I guess that’s the last time that I Google old boyfriends!

  185. By Adam on Mar 21, 2013 | Reply

    Same here, I’m sure there is connection between Linkedin and Facebok and they share information.

    I seen few times people who I know personally or only through facebook appear magically on People you may know and no idea how !!!

    Third time happens and I will send very annoying email to Linkedin.

    The more people say about the better.

  186. By Me too on Apr 22, 2013 | Reply

    I use Macmail; my ISP is Comcast. LinkedIn regularly suggests people I have emailed–and emailed ONLY–who are not connected on Facebook, not in the same profession, not in the same geographical area, and who would not be searching for me. Somehow they’re scanning my email. I have never, ever “imported” contacts to LinkedIn via email.

  187. By Everyone on Apr 24, 2013 | Reply

    The only way LinkedIn could have gotten this information is to access my email contacts. I have people I knew 20 years ago from my sons baseball team on the list. Show me an algorithm that will do that and I will show you a hacker.

  188. By JV on May 6, 2013 | Reply

    I have some deep privacy concerns with Linkedin now…

    Last year, Linkedin suggested a person on ‘People you may know’ that my colleague and I exchange emails with via my Yahoo account. I checked her Linkedin profile, and my Linkedin contacts do not have any connection with her. She’s not even a friend on Facebook.

    A couple of minutes ago, Linkedin suggested another person on ‘People you may know’ and the same situations exists with her. I only contact her via Yahoo email.

    Could it be Yahoo or LinkedIn are sharing information or Linkedin is doing unauthorized data mining?

  189. By Padron on May 7, 2013 | Reply

    My theory: People lie. Q: Did you search my profile? A: No (blink, twitch, Lie)

  190. By Laura on May 12, 2013 | Reply

    I found it odd today when my ex boyfriend popped up as someone I may know. He is not on any social network site, I never imported my contact list either. He is not even in a professional business network similar to mine at all. He is a General contractor and I am in International Transportation. Nowhere close. How does one explain that?

  191. By Gary on May 16, 2013 | Reply

    I have never imported any of my contact lists, and yet they list a restaurant I went to looked up which is a small place located in another country. It’s very fishy.

  192. By Kathy on May 16, 2013 | Reply

    Add me to the list of creepy suggestions via the “People You May Know” list. On three separate occasions it has suggested people that I emailed ONCE through my gmail account and otherwise have absolutely no connection to whatsoever. I have no doubt that it creeps my email and my google searches.

  193. By Guido on May 16, 2013 | Reply

    A person shows up in the ‘people you may know’ that is a support technician for an IT company that i’ve only contacted with via private email (via webmail interface) after sending a support request via the IT website.

    It’s very scary. I can’t imagine any legal way how they can come up with a link between myself and this person. Are they scanning internet traffic or (cached) files on my computer? We used teamviewer to share desktops, do they scan traffic?

  194. By Mark on Jun 5, 2013 | Reply

    Recently my brother cleared all the cookies in Firefox and created a new yahoo e-mail account and then created a new linkedin account, using my laptop (Mac with Firefox). Voila…he logged in and the first thing that showed up was my profile under “people you may know”. This is very scary and sneaky, especially I cleared all the cookies. I don’t know where they got my info…unless they are tracking the mac address or have something embedded in my pc in a sneaky way and accessing it. No other e-mail accounts were open. How is this possible?

  195. By papa on Jun 28, 2013 | Reply

    Why are my email contacts being stolen by linked in? And why no one is doing anything about it. I never give anyone permission to do such a thing. This is bs. I need some answers and linked in is ignoring everyone that have a problem. I will try to post this thing in as many places in web so that people are aware of this scam

  196. By BeefarinoRusty on Jul 2, 2013 | Reply

    THE PLOT THICKENS (beyond anything I’ve seen reported on this)… I have a yahoo email account that I only use for spam, and NONE of my friends have this email address or even know about it. I used that address to create a LinkedIn account, did NOT use my real name anywhere in the account, and 95% of the “People you may know” are people that I DO know and have emailed with in the past. So, LinkedIn MUST be searching my laptop – specifically my MS Outlook archive of locally-saved emails and/or my Palm Desktop (which contains an archive of names/email addresses) – to discover names and email addresses. The only program I’ve had that was similar in creepiness was Google Desktop, which archives every word on your laptop and reports it in your Google searches, but this was an actually program that I had to download/install, and was able to uninstall it. I do not use Facebook, Twitter, or other social media at all, so there is no data and no possible connection there. Any theories?

  197. By anony on Jul 13, 2013 | Reply

    I am positive LinkedIn harvests your E-mails. I got a spam E-mail from someone I barely know, and the next day, that person showed up on my “People You May Know” on LinkedIn.

  198. By Bingobilly on Jul 20, 2013 | Reply

    Based on my experience I would suggest that LinkedIn grabs data from online apps such as Zabasearch, etc.

  199. By jp on Jul 28, 2013 | Reply

    Exact same experience as beefarinorusty, above. Have yahoo through outlook. A caterer I had contacted that way ended up in linked in. Cancelled immediately.

  200. By Michael Peterson on Aug 6, 2013 | Reply

    I totally agree. It has gone way way beyond coincidence or simple mining. They have to be accessing our address books, email records and other aspects of personal hard drives. Stuff I am seeing and getting is out of control and many only can come from personal data on by drives. How would they know who my mortgage company is??? I am not on Yahoo, Face Book or any other social site. Period. Any lawyers out there… perhaps it is time for a class action lawsuit.

  201. By Katie on Aug 6, 2013 | Reply

    I also use a fake name for LinkedIn, with a fake email address not linked to any other site. I only use LinkedIn at work, and I’ve not made connections with anyone with this LinkedIn account.

    Every single one of my co-workers is in my PYMK list. The rest of the suggestions seem to be people who are connected with my co-workers.

    Also… one ex-boyfriend who I once Googled while I was bored at work.

    So it looks like they’re tracking my IP address, and possibly some of my Google searches. (on the other hand, I’ve searched for other people than the ex-boyfriend, and they’re not coming up – perhaps I was logged into LinkedIn during the one search but not others.)

  202. By Katie on Aug 6, 2013 | Reply

    And then I just found this:

    …which is from May 2013 and covers some of the same things we’re sharing here in these comments.

  203. By Chris on Aug 10, 2013 | Reply

    I’m convinced it somehow knows who you have sent e-mails to. I’ve had a btinternet .com (now under Yahoo which is on the list of accounts you can import from) e-mail address since the nineties. Last December 2012, Quentin Wilson (ex Top Gear presenter) appeared in my PYMK; my only contact with Mr Wilson was I sent an e-mail to his personal address in 2008 in respect of a warranty company he was endorsing – that’s it, he’s never been in my contacts, never been imported to Linkdin and with whom I have no other connections. Yet 4 years later he appears in PYMK.

    Same thing happened today (August 2013); a guy we met on holiday in 2003 appeared on my PYMK list, again I would have emailed him once in 2003 and then had no other/further contact, yet here he is popping up ten years later.
    I cannot think of any other explanation other than they have, or had access to sent emails.

  204. By Chuckie (Made up) on Aug 15, 2013 | Reply

    1)Sinister data mining
    Really sinister place. Obviously they will sell your contact list to your rivals at some point.

    For anyone who believes in building up a contact list over years and decades, its a disaster, a crime. Likewise for anyone who values privacy.

    They mine EVERYTHING.
    They mix your Google searches with your linkedin. If you have AOL, Yahoo, ANY of those big names, the data is cross referred.

    They also cross refer your address book’s activities against yours. Far from building trust and working relationships, its utterly SMASHING them.


    2)The recomendation and contact system is a shame. I built up a small list of people I never met, and dont know. I wont list anyone who is a “genuine contact”. Why should I share it?

    Many people go round adding recommendations, hoping for them back. I dont mind, but I’ve no idea who these people are. So why “recommend” me?

    Ugly, sinister, criminal place.

  205. By SSuperSport on Aug 24, 2013 | Reply

    Here’s a creepy LinkedIn “connection” for you. I recently joined LinkedIn approximately 3 weeks ago. I set up everything through my phone and have never accessed their site or app through anything other than my phone. I set up a generic industry along with a different company name. I didn’t allow the site to access my contact list and used an email that I only utilize for junk mail. Yesterday, I listed a few vintage pieces of audio equipment for sale on eBay. They were designed and manufactured by a man that I have never spoken with in my life. None of my friends or any of the few people I’m connected with on LinkedIn share the same interest in this vintage equipment. I utilized a key word in the auctions title that shows that this particular person made the piece of equipment. His name was used once more within the body of the auctions description. I havent personally mentioned, typed, emailed, or even heard anyone speak this persons name since the mid 1990′s. This so called “person you may know” wasn’t simply showing up by chance. It didn’t show up through a shared contact with one of my other LinkedIn connections. It didn’t come through any email that was ever sent to this particular person because I have never made an attempt to contact him. I constantly log out of my apps like Facebook and close out those running in the background as well. The ONLY way LinkedIn would’ve been able to “recommend” this particular person was through the mining of my data through eBay. I’m the furthest thing from a paranoid, conspiracy theorist but this has got me thinking…

  206. By TF on Jan 13, 2014 | Reply

    I was just going through my ‘People You May Know’ to see whom I should connect with, and strangley it suggested a clinical psychologist I saw a few times. I never imported any contacts to LinkedIn and am very concerned how it may have joined the dots.

    Any suggestions other than it’s scanning my browsing history or my gmail account?

  207. By Matt on Sep 12, 2014 | Reply

    I am convinced that linkedin scans your google searches. I searched for an old work colleague on google, just typing their name and the last company I heard they worked for. Two weeks later they’ve appeared in my ‘people you may know’ box. This person is not in my email contacts list, I have not spoken to them for years, the email address I use for linkedin is one I set up only 6 months ago. I was not logged in to linkedin at the time of my search. What’s going on?

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