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LinkedIn users rebel after personal data siphon crimped

Plan to slow personal data exports for security's sake reversed after member tantrum

LinkedIn has reversed a recent decision to make it harder for members to download information about those who've decided to connect with them on the business-centric social network.

The company's original decision removed a facility that allowed users to more-or-less-instantly download a .CSV file of all their connections. The replacement offered the same facility, but with a service level that delivered “typically within 24 hours although sometimes it takes longer.” The delay was aimed at making it harder for “scrapers” to access LinkedIn data and make it available to unauthorised third parties.

Despite those good intentions, users went nuts with rage. And LinkedIn has caved, reversing the decision and restoring the instant .CSV download. LinkedIn veep for product management Michael Korcuska says “since that change, we’ve heard you loud and clear -- that is too long to have to wait for a download of connection information.”

Korcuska promises LinkedIn will try again to foil scrapers, because the company believes “... the data our members enter into LinkedIn is theirs and they should be able to export it. We are also committed to ensuring members have control of what data can be exported by their connections.”

Data scraping and siphoning are clearly an issue for LinkedIn.

A few months ago, a series of people claiming to be figures like CIOs at the world's largest companies or famous authors sent your correspondent LinkedIn connection invitations. While the person's name was right, the career profiles were suspiciously thin, suggesting a data harvesting scam. Plenty of folk nonetheless accepted an invitation to link with these fake luminaries, giving whoever ran the accounts the chance to learn a lot about gullible people.

When The Reg asked LinkedIn about the incidents, we were told by a spokesperson that “Users on any internet platform should be aware that there are people who will occasionally misuse the online space” and that “We have mechanisms that typically detect inappropriate use.” The company says it also “encourage[s] our members to report inappropriate profiles. When we are notified of any violations to the User Agreement, we take immediate steps to investigate and rectify where necessary.”

With instant data downloads, the perps of such fake accounts can be in and out with plenty of personal data before LinkedIn receives a complaint. Just who made the most noise about the slower download process is therefore anyone's guess, but know also that LinkedIn today announced it has responded to user complaints that it sends too much email.

“For every 10 emails we used to send, we’ve removed 4 of them,” the company says. Perhaps all those emails distract LinkedIn users from poring over scraped data? ®

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