We’ve been spending a lot of time lately wrestling with what Facebook has been doing with our information from our personal lives—but Facebook isn’t the only place where you’re sharing a lot of information about yourself. LinkedIn, everyone’s favorite professional-networking service, gets a ton of data from you about your career and interests, and uses it to sell ads and other services. You should definitely be careful about what you information you post on LinkedIn, and do you what you can to limit the free flow of data you might consider private. Here are a few ways to start.
Turn on Two-Factor Security
We are staunch supporters of using two-factor security whenever you can. Luckily, LinkedIn makes it easy to set up two-factor authentication for your account. Click on the “me” icon in the top right section of your profile, then select “settings and privacy.” In the “account” section, “Two-Step Verification” is the fifth option down. (If you have not supplied LinkedIn with a phone number, you will need to do so). Click change and follow the steps to set up two-factor on your account.
Considering how much information you naturally add to your LinkedIn, it makes sense to make sure that it is well-protected. Doubly so if you’re a LinkedIn Premium subscriber, as you’ve given the site your credit card.
Stop Syncing Things
LinkedIn loves… linking. The social network is owned by Microsoft, so it can sync with Microsoft Office to help you make resumes in Word. It syncs with job and employers when you share your account via an API (often through a “Connect LinkedIn” button). It can sync to your Twitter account, so you can cross-post content to both networks.
Here’s the thing: When you connect all these accounts, they all get access to some portion of your data, and they all increase the risk of your LinkedIn account getting compromised if one of the other services gets hacked. While some of these connections can be genuinely useful, most of them are not worth it. You have to opt-in to these connections, so remember—if a website prompts to connect to LinkedIn, just say no.
If you’ve already connected services and would like to untether them, click on the “me” icon in the top right section of your profile, then select “settings and privacy.” From there, go down to “partners and services” and you’ll find three options; one for managing Microsoft services, one for managing Twitter settings, and a third for other “permitted services.” Simply click on them and press “remove” on any accounts you wish to disconnect.
Keep LinkedIn out of Your Contacts
LinkedIn also asks you to sync your contacts and calendar from your phone to help you find your professional network on the site. Users often do this when they create their accounts to find people they know quickly, but forget that, by “syncing” the accounts, LinkedIn can and will continue to monitor your contacts over time.
To unsync your contacts and calendars, click on the “my network” tab, then the connections button on the left side of the window, which should bring you to your big list of everyone you’re connected with on LinkedIn. On the upper right side of the list, there’s a small open book icon and some text that says “manage synced and imported contacts.”
Now you’ve come to a new list, which shows every contact you’ve synced using your phone and address book. As part of your contact data purge. You can delete the entire list or individual contacts. As the LinkedIn points out, deleting contact sync information does not “unfollow” or otherwise disconnect you from those contacts on LinkedIn.
To unsync your contacts, click on “manage contacts syncing” on the right side of the window. On this screen you will be able to see all the contacts lists and calendars with which LinkedIn has synced, and you can remove them piecemeal or press “remove all” to sever all your contact and calendar connections. They are two separates lists, so you will need unsync your calendars and contacts separately — pressing remove all on “calendar” will not affect your address books.
Turn off targeted ads
Like every social network, LinkedIn wants to show you targeted ads based on your interests. It finds out what your interests by tracking your activity on LinkedIn, and on the sites you visit after checking it. You can’t really prevent LinkedIn from tracking you, but you can minimize how many of LinkedIn’s advertising and marketing partners get to see and use it by telling LinkedIn that you do not want your data used for personalized ads.
To turn off personalized ads, click on the “me” icon in the top right section of your profile, then select “settings and privacy.”
From there, click on the “ads” section, and you get a long list of data-related features you can turn off. I recommend turning all of them off, but especially the first three options, “insights based on websites you visited,” “ads beyond LinkedIn,” and “profile data for personalization.”
The first two allow LinkedIn to gather and use data gained from tracking your web activity outside of LinkedIn, and the third allows LinkedIn to use your profile info as part of the ads it serves you.
Don’t be Linkedin’s Guinea Pig
Similarly, LinkedIn shares data from its users to share insights on trends related to work, job-seeking, etc. You can turn this off by going to the “settings and privacy” menu, clicking on communications. Scrolling down to “participate in research” and click no.
If it isn’t public, don’t post it
I’ll cap this with an overall “rule of thumb” for giving LinkedIn information. Despite the fact that it exists to facilitate communication with your colleagues, employers and job-seekers, whom you may trust, you should only post information on LinkedIn if you’re ok with everyone seeing it.
Yes, we’re talking about marketing companies and advertisers, but also people you may actually know. LinkedIn shares your data with recruiters and corporate HR professionals, including people at your current and past employers. It may seem like common sense, but LinkedIn is designed to extract information about your personal and professional life. Having you share that information is always in the site’s best interest, even if it isn’t necessarily in yours.
For example, LinkedIn asks you to let them know if you are “actively” looking for a new job. According to the site, flipping this setting lets the site know to push your profile to recruiters more aggressively. While doing this may help in your job search, it is also playing with fire if you are already employed: The fine print for the feature states that, while the site takes steps to hide your status from your employer, LinkedIn may still share your “job-seeking” status with them.
While being “good at LinkedIn” may seem important because it’s a career-related service, you’re probably better off leaving your account partially unfinished or unoptimized, rather than offering up more personal information than necessary to accomplish your professional networking goals.