LinkedIn Fixes Years-Old Stalking Problem

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LinkedIn has had a long-standing stalking problem, as AOL Jobs reported last year. For years, some users have complained of being harassed through the system. But LinkedIn's controls were largely of an all-or-nothing approach: to be invisible to one person, a user had to forgo many of the potential networking benefits.

Things appear to have changed. A LinkedIn representative emailed AOL Jobs to say that the feature was finally made available yesterday.

According to accounts given to AOL Jobs, the reasons some users wanted to block others ranged from avoiding former romantic interests to bad relationships with former co-workers. For example, Lucy Roberts in England had dated and broken up with someone who then kept trying to contact her. She obtained the equivalent of a protective order to keep him from physically visiting her.

"The only other means of notifying me of his existence and to say 'Here I am', 'Thinking of you,' or whatever he is trying to achieve is to look me up on LinkedIn where he knows I can see that he has viewed me," Roberts said to AOL Jobs. At the time, there was no option, as offered in Facebook or Twitter, to block contact from a particular member.

Chris Glynn explained how he had an "acrimonious relationship" with a former co-worker. "When I see the person looking at my page 7 or 8 times [in a couple of weeks] ... it's disconcerting," he said. "You don't want someone poisoning other relationships, professional relationships."

A woman who called herself Anna R. claimed that a former boss had sexually assaulted her, as BuzzFeed reported. The man would send daily emails and voicemails. She blocked him on Facebook and Twitter, but kept getting daily notifications that he checked her profile on LinkedIn.

"If I had an interview or made a connection that wasn't in my area, [my boss] would ask if I was leaving," she says. "Questions that were really freaking me out, really bad."

The stalking continued for a year. Without a blocking feature, a stalker would have access to significant amounts of information unless the user prevented everyone from seeing information that could be important for professional networking.

As Hani Durzy, LinkedIn director of corporate communications, told AOL Jobs at the time, "We believe that the controls we currently have in place offer the right balance for our members as a whole. However, we are always evaluating the need for different features."

The new blocking feature includes a number of actions:

The user and the blocked person cannot see each other's profiles and cannot message each other on LinkedIn.
  • Any connection between the two is removed, as are any recommendations or endorsements.
  • The two members do not show up in a report on who viewed a user's profile.
  • LinkedIn no longer suggests either to the other under either "People You May Know" or "People also Viewed."
The blocked person does not get a notification of having been blocked, although that should be obvious from the reduced available information. There are some limitations to the new feature, according to LinkedIn:
  • Blocking does not apply to public information, such as a public profile or public posts.
  • Mutual connections might share something from the blocked person, though a user can hide it.
  • You can't block anonymous viewers of your profile.
  • To block a manager of a group you subscribe to, you'd have to leave the group first.
  • Contact records stored locally on a device have to be manually removed, which means that the blocked person may still have copies of your contact information.
Not perfect, but it seems a strong start -- and a welcome relief to many.
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