LinkedIn is a great place to find a job, but as some users have learned, it can also be a great place to be found -- by a stalker. One, who asked to be identified only as Anna R., claims that a former boss who sexually assaulted her has used LinkedIn to stalk her, as BuzzFeed reported. Unfortunately, given the structure of LinkedIn, completely blocking a single person is virtually impossible.
Now some users are asking LinkedIn to improve blocking capabilities so that people don't have to feel the virtual breath of someone over their shoulder. A Change.org petition already has more than 5,700 signers. (And if that wasn't enough, LinkedIn was just hacked in a way that sent to India data that might compromise user accounts.)
Here's how Anna R. describes the alleged problem on the petition page:
I once was a victim of a sexual assult in the workplace. Being young, it was quite a traumatizing experience for me. Because of this incident, I was forced to leave my position and I never looked back, hoping to leave it behind me for good. Unfortunately, the story was only just beginning. It was the start of a stalking -- something I could have never prepared myself for. E-mails, voicemails; some threatening, some flirty, day after day. I quickly found I could ignore emails, delete voicemails, block Facebook, use privacy settings on Twitter -- yet EVERYDAY I was being looked at on LinkedIn. It really started hitting close to home when he started researching my new connections to see where they where located; if they were in a different area in which I worked for him, he would e-mail me to see if I moved and what I was doing. Little things like that started getting me really scared. <sic>
The problem that LinkedIn poses for people being stalked is the perceived lack of flexibility in blocking others. If the person has a valid LinkedIn profile, then he or she has the same access that you grant to all who aren't connected to you. Lock that person out and you also lock out potential employers because it is, after all, a professional networking site. Block everyone and you lose much of the benefit.
Others have claimed stalking problems as well. One, Lucy Roberts in England had dated a man for 8 months in 2012. The man wouldn't desist when she had broken up with him, so he began telephoning and texting her and then going to her house. She had a harassment notice, roughly the equivalent of a protective order in the U.S., served, which meant he as not supposed to contact 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 says. "There is no option to block him on this site like I have done with Twitter and Facebook so I phoned the police to see if this can be classed as stalking and they agreed as it made me feel uncomfortable." Not only has he looked up her profile at least twice a week, but he just tried to connect on LinkedIn with her boss.
Haven't dealt with a sexual predator and don't have an angry ex-spouse or significant other? Stalking can still be a problem.
Chris Glynn, a reporter at PEI Media, explained in an interview with AOL Jobs how someone from the past who is hostile can raise an alarm. 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 says. "You don't want someone poisoning other relationships, professional relationships. On a purely social site like MySpace or Facebook, it's one thing, but on LinkedIn, which is professional and based on your career, it takes on a different significance."
As Anna R. explained: "Without a blocking feature, like ones available on other social media sites, these stalkers are able to see where their 'prey' works, in which city they work, when they change jobs, when they move, etc." Even repeated indications that a stalker has looked at a profile can leave people intimidated.
Hani Durzy, LinkedIn director of corporate communications, offered the following to AOL Jobs of why LinkedIn doesn't have a block feature:
Instead, we offer much more granular control for our members. There are a number a number of different ways for members to protect themselves and control exactly what parts of their profiles and activities are visible on LinkedIn. First and foremost, members can easily disconnect from anyone of their connections. We realize that may not be sufficient, so we allow members to customize their public profiles so that only what they want to have show up on search engines appears. We make it possible for members to adjust what appears out to their networks when they take action on LinkedIn - change their title or employer, share or post interesting content, etc. We let them limit who can see their photo if they have one on their profile. We let them control what people in their network can see on their profile. And we allow them to limit who can see their connections. All of these can be used to effectively minimize unwanted connections.
That still leaves the problem of pulling information from everyone, including potential employers. Durzy replied, "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."
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