Ways to mitigate LinkedIn's questionable email practices

LinkedIn, despite having about 300 million users, doesn't have the most stellar reputation among social networks. That is something of a remarkable achievement, considering Facebook's history with privacy concerns, so many users are undoubtedly experiencing some schadenfreude thanks to LinkedIn's current court battle over the site's alleged abuse of email addresses.

A recent decision by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has paved the way for LinkedIn members to sue the social network over its alleged abuse of email addresses, possibly even turning it into a class action suit.

At issue in Perkins et al v. LinkedIn is the way LinkedIn communicates with email contacts whom you've shared with the site. If you allow LinkedIn access to your email contacts, LinkedIn sends an invitation to them to join the service not just once, but a total of three times (including two follow-up reminders).

The lawsuit's contention: That's not just annoying to all of the recipients involved, it also can damage a person's reputation, according to plaintiffs. Sending multiple follow-ups can seem tone-deaf and brand you as a poor communicator or an Internet newbie. And those are ironically bad impressions for a social network to brand you with, considering that it's specifically focused on helping users to cultivate business relationships.

LinkedIn's strategy of harvesting email addresses is pervasive and frustrates many LinkedIn users, especially new ones. When creating a new account, for example, LinkedIn encourages users to connect their email to LinkedIn not once, but after every setup step. Defer connecting email to LinkedIn, and you'll be reminded to do so every time you visit the site thereafter.

Of course, connecting your email account to LinkedIn exposes you to the email abuse at issue in the suit. Rather than reveal your contacts or deal with repeated and ongoing requests, you can "hack" the system. Don't offer your own email account, but instead let LinkedIn connect to a disposable online email account (such as one at Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook.com), which doesn't contain any important contacts. This will satisfy LinkedIn's seemingly insatiable desire for your email without exposing coworkers, colleagues or friends to LinkedIn's marketing efforts.

If you have already connected your email to LinkedIn and email invitations have been sent on your behalf, you still have some options. For starters, you can withdraw any active invitations in order to prevent LinkedIn from continuing to spam your contacts. Unfortunately, you must do it one-by-one for each contact LinkedIn has contacted. To do that, open your LinkedIn Inbox and click Sent. Open each invitation and click the Withdraw button.

One other option: If the account you've connected to LinkedIn happens to be a Gmail account, there's a one-click way to sever the connection. Go here to find LinkedIn, and click the Revoke Access button.

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