And then LinkedIn got sued… privacy, hacking, trust issues.

September 27th, 2013 | by Jason Alba |

I’m sure that LinkedIn has been sued before.  You can’t get that big, with that big of a reach, and not have lawsuits.  After all, isn’t it the American Dream… either win the lottery or win a lawsuit?

Well, this lawsuit (here’s a special website for the lawsuit is kind of pretty darn serious.  And this week everyone seems to be talking about it.  I’m not a lawyer, and my ability to digest a bunch or articles is questionable, but here goes.

ERE, a site for recruiters, explains it here: Lawsuit Accuses LinkedIn of Hacking Users and Spamming Their Contacts

Wait, let’s just clarify what the accusation is, as far as I understand it.  I think LinkedIn is accused of taking LinkedIn member’s login information for their email accounts, like Gmail, Yahoo, etc., and logging in as the user, without the user’s knowledge or permission.

Oh crap.

That is quite an accusation, considering LinkedIn is the company that chastises us if we even consider connecting with someone who we don’t know and TRUST.

Of course, LinkedIn denies everything, but I learned in my Business Communications 101 class that the first response from any company, ALWAYS, is to deny everything.  That is step 1.  Of course they are going to deny HACKING into user accounts and spamming their contacts.  So their denial doesn’t mean much to me.

Here is LinkedIn’s denial: Setting the Record Straight on False Accusations. I wish the CEO or Reid Hoffman would have written a “setting the record straight” post, but this comes from Blake Lawit, the “Senior Director” of Litigation at LinkedIn.  (total aside: what a cool last name for a lawyer :p)

In ERE’s post, the comments are interesting.  The first commentor (a recruiter) says: “LinkedIn has done exactly what they are denying. I’m glad this has been addressed.”

The third commentor says: “LI has a “terms and conditions” for us to sign which basically says they can do anything they want and we can’t do anything, but “them’s the breaks” you typically get with a near-monopoly.”  So yeah, that comes back to clicking “Accept” on things without really reading the legaleze, which I would guess 99% of the people do.

Oh wait, it gets uglier than that.  Instead of just stealing your username/password to your gmail (or other email) account, they will already have your username and IF YOU ARE LOGGED INTO YOUR EMAIL, THEY SIMPLY WALK IN THE FRONT DOOR.


From a Bloomberg article, LinkedIn uses your email address you put in when you sign up:

… to access their external e-mail accounts when they were left open, according to the complaint.“LinkedIn pretends to be that user and downloads the e-mail addresses contained anywhere in that account to LinkedIn’s servers,” they said. “LinkedIn is able to download these addresses without requesting the password for the external e-mail accounts or obtaining users’ consent.”

That doesn’t seem like something a company we should trust would do.

Honestly, I have a hard time believing that any ethical company would do that – access my contacts when I’m logged into my email?  I feel yucky now :(

I find the lawsuit coming out now to be interesting timing considering they just opened up access to 13+ year old kids.  You can read what Kick Corcodilos thinks about that here: LinkedIn For Kids: The biggest lead-gen pimp on the Internet?

Lower the minimum age + accusations of hacking into open email accounts = ?

We’ll see.

My prediction is that this will be a gnat on the windshield, they won’t lose market share, many users, or value on the artificial stock market.  And somehow, people will forget about this.

BUT, here are two thoughts…

First, I wrote this post to talk about my thoughts on LinkedIn Contacts, which is kind of, almost CRM:
LinkedIn Contacts vs. LinkedIn Policy: Now This Issue Can’t Be Ignored.  If there was a trust and policy issue with Contacts (that is, putting private stuff into LinkedIn, outside of the social tools they provide), is there a bigger issue of trust based on these allegations?  You betcha.

Second, in LinkedIn’s denials they said this: “We do give you the choice to share your email contacts, so you can connect on LinkedIn with other professionals that you know and trust.”  The problem is that not everyone I communicate with on email do I KNOW, or TRUST, or LIKE.  Doesn’t that seem like a problem with their logic, if indeed they are getting to my email contacts?

What do you think? Do you trust them?  Will you trust them with YOUR contacts/relationships?



  1. 2 Responses to “And then LinkedIn got sued… privacy, hacking, trust issues.”

  2. By Jeff Young on Sep 27, 2013 | Reply

    I have to reiterate a comment I made on another of your posts. I also do not use LinkedIn Contacts and do not recommend it because of the issues you mention. I do not wish to allow LinkedIn access to my entire Email contacts list and I already have another CRM system that works for me.

    Thanks for helping us users and LinkedIn trainers keep up with all the changes LinkedIn seems to be making on a weekly or more frequent basis!

  3. By Mazarine on Sep 30, 2013 | Reply

    Wow. I had no idea that Linkedin was so SLIMY. I’ve been using them since 2008 and they have been pretty insistent about wanting to go through my email contacts but I have never let them.

    But now that I know that if you’re logged into your email somewhere else, and they can STILL go through your email and spam your contacts, without your permission, that is JUST AWFUL.

    Luckily I have given them an old email address that I don’t use hardly at all anymore.

    Whenever they ask to attach one of my new email addresses to my account I always tell them NO.

    I suggest you do the same. Make a spam email account so that they can’t spam your contacts.

    I think LinkedIn greatly overstates the impact of their site. I have never known anyone who has gotten a job through linkedin. Have you?



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