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Your LinkedIn profile is often sold to recruiters

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 - 10:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking website, has acquired a new dimension – that of a peddler of personal bios.

And this, without consent – although its privacy policy fine print has a clause implying such sale of users’ personal info would not be illegal.

So: recruiters can access LinkedIn’s India data for Rs 2.5 lakh per year, while global data costs around Rs 4.75 lakh.

Headhunters are all glee. LinkedIn has been selling them packages that obviate the need to  ‘connect’ with users and yet gain access to their full profiles. A LinkedIn spokesperson confirmed this practice.

But most LinkedIn users, it seems, still believe third parties like hirers cannot access their full profile until and unless they connect with them.

A Delhi-based marketing agent of LinkedIn that dna spoke to posing as a headhunting start-up revealed that annual subscriptions are possible for a price, though cheaper options are available to suit various needs.

An annual package can offer a recruiter access to LinkedIn users’ full profiles except their email IDs and contact information, without being directly connected to them. This is done through a premium LinkedIn service offered to the recruiter’s ID.

Typically, a recruiter, using the premium LinkedIn service, contacts a chosen user via an ‘in-mail’, which is a  LinkedIn feature. The user’s email ID is not disclosed in the recruiter’s in-mail, so he/she is led to believe that his/her identity is not compromised.

A spokesperson of a recruitment firm confirmed subscribing to LinkedIn’s access packages. There is a distinct advantage for users in this as well, he said.

Users, if spotted on jobs websites such as Naukri or Monster, may be perceived as desperate jobseekers, he said. “But this is not the case with LinkedIn. The quality of people here is also better. So, it’s a win-win-win for everyone.”

Not everyone agrees though. LinkedIn became popular only because users’ authorisation was required to be able to connect and build a professional network, said Ramesh Vaidyanathan, partner at Advaya Legal, a consultancy firm. “But, if third parties have all my details like where I work and what I do, there is scope for such personal information to be misused.”

A LinkedIn spokesperson, however, said, “The privacy of our members is of utmost importance to us. A member’s contact information is visible only to his own 1st degree connection who he knows and trusts, and is hidden from 2nd and 3rd degree connections.

LinkedIn connects talent with opportunity and enables members to be discovered by great career opportunities, one of the reasons why 225 million members have joined the network to date.”

A CEO of a recruitment firm said most user-driven websites are faced with the choice of generating revenue from either advertisements or sale of personal data. As a result, several sites tend to sell data to advertisers and developers sooner or later.

However, some lawyers said networking sites such as LinkedIn have their privacy policy broadly constructed. “Therefore, technically, they are authorised to do it.”

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