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You can finally block other users on LinkedIn. But is it enough?

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

10 March 2014

Social media users have long been plagued with the issue of the unwanted social media connection; that old high school nemesis that sends you a friend request on Facebook or the friend of your Grandma that follows you on Twitter and won’t stop sending you articles from Fox News. It’s an irritant of the modern world, and it’s one that can turn into a much more serious issue.

Cyberstalking and harassment have become depressingly common on a platform that can be as anonymous as you care to make it. If he was around today, Karl Marx might revise his famous maxim and instead conclude that anonymity is the opiate of the modern masses, as it seems to twist and bend peoples’ ethics to an unfathomable degree.

Many social media sites have responded to this situation by allowing users to block other users. Twitter and Facebook have allowed their users to block others for a long time, and Facebook even allows you to customize your audience for every status you write. Both sites investigate complaints of inappropriate behavior.

However, the business person’s favorite social media site, LinkedIn, has trailed behind these other sites for far too long. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that a website designed for the use of business professionals would lag behind so far on the privacy side of things, so the introduction of a member-blocking facility to LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago was welcomed with open arms.

However, is this really enough to ensure that LinkedIn users are protected online?

Unlike other social media sites, every LinkedIn user is visible to any other LinkedIn user (although their full profile is only visible once they are connected). In fact, this is one of the very facets that the site is built on; the ability to connect with strangers in your field of expertise can open up job opportunities and more, and this is what separates LinkedIn from its more frivolous contemporaries.

However, this also means that users don’t enjoy a high level of safety when using the site. Victims of abuse or workplace harassment, for instance, might feel more protected if they had greater control over the people who could view their profile and find out personal information about them. LinkedIn’s “Who Viewed Your Profile” feature doesn’t really offer much in the way of security.

In fact, the vast majority of people would feel a lot more comfortable knowing that they were offered some degree of protection from the eyes of others. LinkedIn currently only requires a user’s explicit consent in order for one member to “Connect” with another; any member is free to view the (partial) profile of another with no consent necessary. Moving to a Facebook-like security structure that necessitates explicit consent for a user’s profile to be made at all visible might offer a better safety option for LinkedIn users.

But would this change LinkedIn’s whole modus operandi for the worse? Let us know what you think on the SurfEasy Facebook page. We love to hear your thoughts!

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