In a move to placate privacy advocates, LinkedIn said it was adding a blocking feature to protect members against stalkers on LinkedIn.
“I can confirm that we’re in the process of building (a block feature),” responded Paul Rockwell, head of trust and safety at LinkedIn to a post in LinkedIn’s help forum called “Stalking on LinkedIn”.
LinkedIn was building the button in response to ongoing demand, Rockwell said. “We’ve heard you, and we both recognise and appreciate the need for privacy controls in this digital age,” he said.
LinkedIn had initially claimed the network didn’t have a block feature like other social networks because it had several ways “to effectively minimise unwanted connections”, Hani Durzy, LinkedIn director of corporate communications, told AOL Jobs.
But the company had been under pressure following complaints by a 24-year-old woman from Ohio, US who said her boss had sexually assaulted her at work and had continued to harass her through LinkedIn after she quit, as reported by Buzzfeed.
“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,” Anna R. wrote in a petition to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and other senior executives which had over 8,500 signatures.
“A stalker sees where (a member) works, in which city they live, when they change jobs, etc. I am one of these people, and it is scary. (But) LinkedIn currently requires a court order that a member can not have a LinkedIn profile in order to be eligible for blocking,” wrote Anna, the petition founder, in a forum post.
“Users on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other sites can easily block other users. LinkedIn appears to be an outlier among other top social media sites,” she said.
While LinkedIn users could disconnect a connection to another member, there was no way to stop a member viewing their profile. Members could also opt to view profiles anonymously and hide their identity from a list of people who had recently viewed a member’s profile. LinkedIn’s advice to stalking victims to limit their profiles hindered them from using the social network to find jobs and business opportunities.
LinkedIn had a mixed record in its attempts to secure its network. A blocking feature introduced into the LinkedIn Groups to combat spam had become a de facto blacklist preventing thousands of legitimate members from posting in any group to which they belonged.
Until the anti-stalker block feature was released, Rockwell advised LinkedIn members threatened by stalkers to disconnect their LinkedIn accounts from the stalker or reduce the visibility of their updates, profiles or profile photos.
LinkedIn refused to say how many reports it received about stalkers and turned down a request for an interview with Rockwell.
A member could disconnect from a LinkedIn connection by visiting that member’s profile and selecting “Remove Connection” from a blue drop-down box located next to the profile picture. Image credit: Shrink4men