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Tuesday, 18 December 2018 18:32

LinkedIn on the road to ruin under Microsoft

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I have never been a fan of social networks, but LinkedIn was a notable exception because it was specifically designed for business networking. I say “was” because some buffoon at Microsoft, the company that bought LinkedIn for US$26 billion two years ago, has just removed its most valuable feature!

I assume it was some idiot at Microsoft because nobody in the senior levels at LinkedIn, who understands the business philosophy behind the service, could possibly be so stupid as to endanger the company’s business model.

Anyone who has used LinkedIn for any length of time would recognise what a great tool the platform is for creating and building business networks.

That is precisely why the platform, created by entrepreneur Reid Hoffman in December 2002, is a favourite of talent recruiters and executive head-hunters. These are people who want to expand their own private business databases and LinkedIn enabled them to do that – until recently.

From the outset, LinkedIn has been at pains to remind users who build their networks using the platform that the data contained in their first level of connections belongs to them. It is their personal data – names, email addresses, job titles etc.

For those who don’t know, your first level of connections are those people who have mutually agreed to exchange contact details with you.

Thus, until recently, LinkedIn users were able to easily download all the data contained in their first level to their own Excel spreadsheet or some other database.

Now that is no longer the case. Without notification or warning, LinkedIn users find that now they can download their lists – minus their connnections’ email addresses!

Let’s see, now you can access your connections’ email addresses manually and you can download your list – just not the all-important email addresses that enable you to contact the members on your list. Obviously that would make doing business with your hard-won connections too easy it seems.

As can be expected, the LinkedIn blogosphere has come alight with protesters. It seems that business people are a generally a genteel lot (unlike us journalists).

Here is an example:

“Hi, I connect with my industry contacts and occasionally connect with them sending emails, when I tried to down load the contact details, it did not provide the email address.

"I did not research and found that, you guys have removed that option (rather set that as opt out by default), I am at a $59.99/month paid membership level and will be going to non paid membership, please confirm if i will be losing anything if I do this, if I cannot download the contact email address i don't see the value in paying for membership.

Thanks”

And here is the buffoonish form letter reply from the moderator to this poster:

“Hi (name withheld),

"LinkedIn is committed to putting our member's first, and recently introduced a new setting to give members further control over their email address(es).

"The new setting for Who can download your email defaults to the strongest privacy option. You have the choice to change this setting to allow your direct connections to download your email address when your direct connections request a data download.

"In addition, you can also choose whether to make your email address visible on your profile page. If your direct connection has chosen to share their email address with you, you may navigate to your direct connections' profile to view their email address.

"Below are some additional resources to reference regarding Privacy, Member Account Data, and the Visibility of Email Addresses on our site.

"Managing Your Privacy Settings: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/66
"Accessing your Account Data: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/50191
"Visibility of your Email Address: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/261

"I hope you will find this useful.”

The reply to this response from the original poster:

“Hi, you did not answer my question at all, but just copy & pasted the same standard answer you guys have given to any one asking the similar question.”

And from other posters:

“I am having the same problem. I am paying 59.99 per month for a professional business website that is very important to my business. If emails are private, that will devalue the service. Many times, the limitations are InMails for size and content require the use of emails.”

“Same problem Krishna (the moderator). I respect your cut and paste response, but that is not a good answer. This is a 'business' forum and this information should be made available by default. If LinkedIn decided on there own to change it, then you should have notified all members that they would be required to change there profile setting to allow this information to be shared on future downloads by others.”

As I said, mid-level business people can be a genteel lot when they express their dismay. The following is my post to the forum:

“Hi Krishna and LinkedIn team,

"Your action in removing email addresses from 1st level connection archive downloads is disgraceful. I have been a member since 2003 and I have been told from day one that my data belongs to me. Free access to contact details including email addresses between first level connections has always been an accepted feature of your service. Now that this feature has been removed, your service is of no use to me.

"What is even worse you did not even have the courtesy of informing your users of this action.

"I am a fairly well-known tech journalist and I intend to broadcast my feelings in an article on my site itwire.com and our newsletter database of 75,000 high level ICT decision makers. I will also endeavour to make the article available to my network of LinkedIn 1st level connections (10,278 as of today) and encourage them to re-broadcast the article.”

I got the following email response:

“Dear Stan,

"Thank you for contacting us. We're committed to putting our member's first, and recently introduced a new setting to give members further control over their email address(es).

"The new setting for Who can download your email defaults to the strongest privacy option. You have the choice to change this setting to allow your direct connections to download your email address when your direct connections request a data download.

"In addition, you can also choose whether to make your email address visible on your profile page. If your direct connection has chosen to share their email address with you, you may navigate to your direct connections' profile to view their email address.

"Below are some additional resources to reference regarding Privacy, Member Account Data, and the Visibility of Email Addresses on our site.

"Managing Your Privacy Settings: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/66
"Accessing your Account Data: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/50191
"Visibility of your Email Address: https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/261

"Please let me know if there are additional questions regarding this, or any other matters on LinkedIn.

"Regards,

"Ivaan
"Consumer Support Specialist”

One would think that an organisation the size of LinkedIn could at least come up with a couple of form letters for a bit of variety. Unfortunately, now that Microsoft is running the show, it would appear not.

If I don’t hear from LinkedIn informing me that ALL my data once again belongs to me, then I’m afraid it is log out from LinkedIn and a big goodbye from me to what was once a valuable service.


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Stan Beer

Stan Beer assists with Digital Advertising installation and monitoring of advert performance. With 35 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications. Any previous news story submissions should be director to editor@itwire.com and advertising enquires to andrew.matler@itwire.com

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