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LinkedIn: security, privacy and CVs

15 Dec

I realise that in my last post on the LinkedIn CV generator I finished sounding quite negative about LinkedIn, which doesn’t feel fair. The trouble is, as soon as you start thinking about privacy, about a website holding large amounts of your personal details, you can’t help but start feel threatened – particularly due to Facebook and Google’s cavalier attitude to their users. But is privacy something we really need to worry about?

Yes is the short answer, if you take this stories like this into account:

The owner of XY Magazine and its associated website – which catered for young homosexual boys – filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

XY’s creditors have applied for the firm’s one remaining valuable asset: its database of one million users.

Although the move has been opposed by the US government no less, the possibility of a distressed company being forced to sell off data is still there and I have heard of it happening before (frustratingly can’t find the reference). What if the data had been less sensitive? What if it was already considered to have been publicly published in some form? Do you know where your data being stored? Is it in your own country or another jurisdiction? And as this story shows, even if you know who is holding your data now, and you feel happy with their User Agreement, what if they lost control of it? Do you even know what data they have stored? See LinkedIn privacy policy, Section 1J (my italics)

  • Rights to Access, Correct and Eliminate Information About You

    You have a right to access, modify, correct and eliminate the data you supplied to LinkedIn. If you update any of your information, we may keep a copy of the information that you originally provided to us in our archives for uses documented in this policy. You may request deletion of your information at any time by contacting LinkedIn customer service. We will respond to your request within 30 days.

This perhaps raises another question, relevant to career changers and those who want to substantially edit their professional image (that isn’t meant to sound sinister, I’m really thinking of students going from tentative job-seeking to settling into their career). Does it matter if your former digital identity is still stored elsewhere if no one can see it? I think it does if you don’t realise it, and I’m sure many users do not delve this deeply into the privacy policy.

Even if you set aside the risks of third-party data storage, what about the very concept of making your entire employment history public? LinkedIn does tell people they should only connect to people they know, but that does not much limit access to your profile. If you join a large group your details are shared with people you don’t know in that group. You also don’t know who your connections generally are connected to. I work on the assumption that anything I put on LinkedIn can be seen by anyone. And I wouldn’t put my full CV online in the public domain because of the risk of identity theft and fraud.

Returning again to the LinkedIn privacy policy, which I do find clearly set-out and straightforwardly written, Section 2a:

The information you provide to LinkedIn may reveal, or allow others to identify, your nationality, ethnic origin, religion, gender, age, geography, or other aspects of your private life.

LinkedIn does provide some settings allowing you to control what is visible on your public profile, but the default is openness. If you follow the encouragement of LinkedIn to upload your CV to populate your profile, and to update and fill out your details as fully as possible to use the CV tool and maximise your networking exposure, you could have a lot of personal information public before you know it.

Secondly, reading that list of information I can see elements that you would not even include on a job application. It is usually recommended that explicit statements of age and ethnic origin be omitted to mitigate both explicit discrimination and implicit prejudice (and to protect employers from accusations of such). For similar reasons, in the UK we do not usually require a photo to be added to a CV. The issue of whether this is successful in controlling discrimination is another question (especially in this open social media age), but the point is that users of LinkedIn will make this information more available simply because the boxes are there and everyone else is doing it, not because they have really considered these consequences.

I think I was always happy with using LinkedIn as an enhanced business card and a way of maintaining connections, however it is this drift towards its use as a job application tool containing full work histories that has raised my concerns. I can see why LinkedIn would want to do it – recruiters already find LinkedIn profiles a valuable source of candidates, and imagine the power LinkedIn would gain if its profiles became application currency, equivalent to CVs and application forms. It is also a very convenient tool for us, the users. But it is this very usage that substantially increases the privacy risks, as well as the increased potential for employment discrimination. As much as I love Web 2.0, it is the users who need to stay aware and protect themselves when it comes to privacy, and this does feel like an area which needs more flagging.


Interesting new CV tool available from LinkedIn labs

14 Dec

The new LinkedIn Resume Builder automatically slots information from your LinkedIn profile into a CV template. It is worth a try – very quick and easy to play with (assuming you already have a LinkedIn account).

While it sounds very handy and does give instant results, on reflection I’m not sure how useful it is.

It is fairly obvious the immediate result isn’t good to go and requires editing. But what to edit? I think it could be misleading for some people when it suggests sections that you may not need, or elements to include (listed interests? college societies?). It would be easy to view these templates as prescriptive. On the other hand, I did like playing with the different templates, immediately seeing the impact of different layouts and approaches.

I looks like it is a tool best used with a careers adviser (or trusted friend) to discuss what to include, what to edit, what to leave out. So it is not really that much more convenient or time-saving. It makes a starting point, but I think that is all.

I think the underlying intention, which is more successful, is to remind us that LinkedIn would be a really convenient place to store our entire career histories to make CV writing and applications much easier in future. And of course, for LinkedIn that means more data, more people filling out their profiles fully rather than just putting in enough to facilitate networking in their present role…  So they get more data for marketing purposes. And they get more filled out, CV-like profiles on LinkedIn which would enable the next logical step – why pull out a CV from LinkedIn when you can just send the employer/recruiter your LinkedIn profile in the first place? For now, I think this tool might benefit LinkedIn more than its users.


Response: 4 lies about social media

8 Dec

I am a follower of Penelope Trunk’s blog, Brazen Careerist, and when I saw this post – 4 lies about social media – it immediately got me thinking as to whether it tallied with my experiences. She presents these as the four lies (quotes are from the blog post):

* My ‘agrees’ and ‘disagrees’ relate to Penelope’s position (so ‘agree’ means I do think the statement in the heading is a lie… sorry only saw potential confusion after writing…):

Lie #1: LinkedIn is for networking

LinkedIn is great. I’m on LinkedIn. I have 650 connections. At first I wondered, why do I need this list of connections published on LinkedIn? What was the purpose of it? But now I get it. With LinkedIn, people can tell that I am a very connected person.

Penelope’s main point is that LinkedIn is not a place for conversation.


  • Yes I tend to treat my profile as a fairly static CV/calling-card. I will connect with people I met at a work event, and store the contacts for later.
  • Yes I will have more respect for someone who is an effective user of the site, with plenty of contacts and a rich profile – it is a sign of professional awareness, yet…


  • If all I see in my feed is John Smith connecting with dozens of new people all the time, I will regard him as just a ‘collector’, not interested in meaningful relationships, and probably with a strong agenda or product to push (which I would prefer to avoid).
  • I do take part in some very interesting conversations in the Groups I have joined on LinkedIn. I enjoy receiving my round-up email and it regularly instigates me to participate. I don’t think I have actually made contacts through this, but some faces have become more familiar, and it definitely helps my wider professional development and awareness of broader issues.

Lie #2: Twitter is for conversation

The problem with using Twitter for conversation is that we need more than 140 characters to make a genuine connection with someone. So you’re not going to have a whole conversation there; Twitter is great for finding people who have similar ideas, and for keeping track of them in a superficial way.


  • Absolutely, Twitter has been fantastic for helping me find people in libraries, marketing and technology work, that has all been very helpful when I need advice (or work-related entertainment).
  • I suppose conversation doesn’t really happen there. Don’t tell, but the one web 2.0 tool I hate is instant messaging. For me, the benefit of Twitter is that I can exchange a couple of quality messages, then walk away without offending anyone. It is a degree more casual.

I’m not sure if this ranks as agree or disagree

  • Penelope adds that you need to take a Twitter-generated relationship elsewhere to solidify it. I agree with this, but just wanted to add that Twitterers generate meet-ups and events purely based on Twitter acquaintance, and associated Twitter tools built on the free API do provide instant chat, extended messages, photo exchange and more, which helps develop a relationship. The ‘elsehwere’ you need to go to may be Twitter-generated.

Lie #3: Blogs are personal journals

Your blog is a record of what you’re thinking, and that record will represent you online, as a high-ranking search result when someone googles your name. So if you care about building a network, you’ll stop using your blog as a diary.


  • Blogs are definitely not just diaries. There are wide possibilities for tone, topic and audience. They are indeed very public too, so you might as well consider the professional impact from the start and plan accordingly.

Lie #4: Social media is no place for business

Companies understand they need to participate in conversation, and they are looking a professional places to do it. If you want to be known to companies, you will use social media to allow them to get to know you.


  • Social media is a great way to build SEO and professional presence. If you approach it professionally there is no reason it should be inappropriate. Business is already out there on the social web, manipulating it, monitoring it, and if you make contact with them – monitoring you on it. Embracing social media should show you to be image-savvy with an eye for opportunities whereever they may arise – great traits for business.


Ok, so I don’t really disagree with Penelope at all, but I can understand reservations about using social media for business.

  • When times are tight, the hard-to-measure ROI of social media can make it a soft-target to cut or avoid.  Coupled with the fact that social media eats time and always demands more, it can seem an unappealing proposition to invest in.
  • For all the management effort you put in, you might still have a disaster event that means your own page or forum becomes the focus of a hammering. Trolls are given a space, publicly-available and searchable, to rant away. That is scary – it takes some progressive thinking and faith in your contacts and customers to trust that they will be reasonable and listen more to your responses and reassurances than the troll’s nonsense.

LinkedIn webinar for careers professionals

4 Aug

Just a quick post to let you know about these webinars for careers service professionals, exploring how students can use LinkedIn for career networking, and how we can use LinkedIn for maintaining alumni connections. Looks potentially very useful. The webinars are on a number of dates in August and September. I’m definitely going to catch one and report back.

(Thanks to @fawcettbj for the heads-up)