Pop Culture
LinkedIn Links to Twitter Account Without User Authorization
By Hervé St-Louis
June 20, 2010 - 10:11

LinkedIn now links the Twitter accounts of its users without authorization from users, thereby breaking Canadian privacy laws.

I was checking my LinkedIn account this morning and was totally surprised to see my Twitter feed linked to my LinkedIn profile without me ever authorizing such an action. For weeks, now, I've seen a prompt from the LinkedIn page that asked me to link my Twitter account to LinkedIn. I never clicked on that. I have no interested in linking the two accounts and generally find that a breach of my privacy. Stuff I do on LinkedIn stays on LinkedIn. Stuff I do on Twitter stays on Twitter. Stuff I do on Facebook stays on Facebook. I have no interests in creating a gigantic grid of all my online activities. I like silos.

LinkedIn apparently thinks otherwise. Facebook keeps trying to pull the same crap all the time, but have received enough scorn from users and many government agencies from many countries to cool off their hunger. LinkedIn apparently, which people trust with even more sensitive information, people's professional careers, has no qualms about stepping over its users rights to manage their own accounts and gleefully linked their profiles to their Twitter account.

Usually when one links a Twitter account to a service, there is an authorization/authentication step that occurs. In this case, I cannot for the life of me remember when such an authentication was requested by LinkedIn. They might have pulled some underhanded crap while I was using my smartphone or when both my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts were opened at the same time, swiped some cookies from my cache and just added my Twitter account without me expressly ever approving the action.

This is a serious breach of user privacy and a breach of the service offered by LinkedIn. It violates basic Canadian privacy laws that make linking two services and not protecting the user databases of a company an illegal act. LinkedIn is clearly liable for a lawsuit and a penalty from the Canadian Privacy Commissioner. If the latter doesn't act soon, then Canadians should send them letters en masse.

For the first time in my LinkedIn feed, I also saw the Twitter feeds of several users in my LinkedIn network. I bet they did not authorize LinkedIn to link their Twitter feeds either.

LinkedIn also mentions that it will not delete the information of your Twitter account if you remove it from your LinkedIn account. They say, that's to make sure no one claims that Twitter account in their LinkedIn account. That doesn't make sense. I control my Twitter account (well I used to think I did). If LinkedIn did not use deceptive means to link my LinkednIn and my Twitter account, I would have no fear that anyone would ever try to link the two. Anytime I would receive a request to link my Twitter account to some LinkedIn account, I could just reject the request. Now, if I can't reject the request, then maybe it's because a request is never sent to me, thereby making it likely that a third party could try to claim my Twitter account without my authorization. Keeping the data on my Twitter account in their database is clearly another breach of Canadian privacy laws, where when a user requesting their information to be deleted from a vendor or any organization, the latter have to purge their system of any data on the user. Hey LinkedIn, as a Canadian, I'm demanding that you erase all information of my Twitter account in your database now. It's a clear request and failure to do so quickly can bring a hefty penalty from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

I also remember LinkedIn adding an Amazon application again without my authorization a few months ago. At the time, I just deleted the app which I had never added and moved on. But this illustrate a clear deceptive pattern of actions from LinkedIn thinking it's authorized to link users' accounts with other Web services they use without asking the user whether they want to or not. In the case of my Amazon account, that's information that's clearly private leaves me with a feeling of abuse. In each case, the participation of Twitter and Amazon with LinkedIn's deceptive acts is unclear, but surely questionable and unethical.

According to LinkedIn, full integration with Twitter was achieved on May 25, 2010 and over a million users already linked their Twitter accounts to LinkedIn and added the Twitter app in their LinkedIn account. The problem is that users like me have never added any Twitter applications to their LinkedIn accounts. LinkedIn added that on their own and probably then claimed that a million people had added the app and linked their accounts. That's more deception from LinkedIn. It's like the Amazon app that popped up in my account that I don't remember adding manually. How many similar apps will LinkedIn add to their users' accounts without ever requesting them if they want to or not? If a third party pays LinkedIn enough money so that an application is added to my profile, will LinkedIn add it? Google got in trouble for adding GoogleBuzz on users without their permissions, but LinkedIn, because it's a smaller network has gotten away with doing the same repetitively and worse.

Did LinkedIn use deceptive measures to link the profile of its users with their Twitter accounts? We'll soon find out. You don't suppose a spokesperson from LinkedIn would like to comment before all hell breaks lose with the Canadian Privacy Commissioner?

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