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LinkedIn called me a white supremacist because I happen to share a name with one (slate.com)
320 points by tptacek on May 25, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 179 comments



Not this serious, but when I updated my position from entry level at Microsoft to CTO of a startup, LinkedIn notified all of my connections that I was now CTO of MICROSOFT.

Customer service said it was a "known issue". My friends thought it was funny, but I'm stia little annoyed because it made me look sloppy.

Come on, LinkedIn, you have one job!


Turn off the option to notify your network in your Linkedin profile, that'll sort out most of these issues.

"Congrats on your new role !" - No, dude, I got the promotion a year ago, it's just that I am now looking to jump ship so I updated my Linkedin


I often get suggestions to connect to my dead mother. I just figured linkedin liked me as much as I like them.


I get connect requests from women who are the manager of Ford Motor Company in Nigeria, or the Vice President of some bank in London, or other ludicrous and unlikely occupations. Always women. Every other day or so.


LinkedIn is just looking out for you. They know kids will continue your legacy, bigger userbase. Cough cough. >.<


off-topic, but how long do you guys wait before updating linkedin with new job/start adding new coworkers?


3 months or so. If the job has a trial period I definitely don't want to add all my colleagues before the trial period is over. I also don't like adding people who start at my company until I know that they're good at their jobs.


A few weeks ago LinkedIn posted a 4 year work anniversary for a colleague of mine who passed away 3 years ago. I complained on Twitter. They responded immediately and a few hours later they said they were taking his profile offline.

I'm not saying I have the solution to this particular problem, but it's still kind of jarring to see these kinds of updates.


Was it necessary, prior to LinkedIn acting on your advice, to provide proof the person had died?


As soon as they got back to me, I sent them a link to the obituary and since this conversation was on Twitter, I also had to verify who _I_ was. My assumption was that they were going to ask for it anyway, so I just got them the info as soon as the conversation got started, but no, they hadn't asked for it at that point.


An obituary is a news article that reports the recent death of a person.

Does an obituary qualify as authentication that a person has died? I would have expected them to require a death certificate from the relevant government department. In Australia these are handled by state level, eg.[1]

1. http://www.justice.tas.gov.au/bdm/deaths/applyforcertificate


Are you asking whether there's a social-engineering attack vector here? Probably, but this sort of change is reversible (assuming your infrastructure is even slightly reasonable). If someone wanted to report me as dead, and went to the lengths of fabricating an obituary about me, I wouldn't be upset at LinkedIn for disabling my profile, provided there was an easy-ish way for me to convince them that reports of my death had been greatly exaggerated.

As security policies go, a setup that with a small chance of temporarily marking someone as dead when they're not seems better than one with no chance of marking someone as dead when they are.


For friends of someone that has died, that is a bit of an onerous task that is not available online in many countries.


As in many, many similar cases, Twitter should charge companies (Linkedin, numerious telco etc) a fee for providing a forum to conduct customer service.


(And typing on mobile I typo "still" and can't edit - maybe I am sloppy)


I really didn't even notice the typo until this comment.


Well it's time I un-endorse you for "attention to detail" on LinkedIn then...


My favourite endorsement on LinkedIn - and one of the few ones that are actually genuinely deserved - is an ex-colleague of mine that has a bunch of endorsements for "general awesomeness".


If you add "general awesomeness" as a skill on LinkedIn then by that very act you don't really need anyone to endorse your general awesomeness because you just are. Any endorsement is jumping on the bandwagon and superfluous at this point.


I almost completely ignore typos anymore, assuming that all the cool kids now connect with their space phones.


I totally subconsciously stared at 'stia' but ignored it as I had all the info I wanted


The good news is no one reads LinkedIn notifications.


Well, that's what I thought too, but enough people liked it and commented on it that I was getting notifications for days. (I'm assuming they show it to more people when it gets reactions, which I agree, is almost never)


It's the clickbait emails that get me. "Congratulate Jim on his new role!" without mentioning what it is


sounds like a case of a change set that was carried out in a non-atomic way when it should have been done atomic


This is a good opportunity for everyone to disable this feature before LinkedIn sends any news articles to your contacts about you.

Go here (https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/privacy) and turn off the setting labeled "Notifying connections when you're in the news". It's the last item in the first section. While you're still on that page, scroll to the bottom and enable two factor auth too.


This is also a good opportunity to close your LinkedIn account and never look back. Between the password thefts and algorithmically-generated libel, I have no idea why people continue to trust LinkedIn with their data and likeness.


Because the impact these issues have on most people is very small and LinkedIn is a useful tool for managing a professional network -- one that can make a real difference in finding a new job. To most people, such a tool is not worth giving up merely on principle. I am bothered by LinkedIn's track record, but still find it worthwhile to stick around.


Don't worry, HN is my go-to source for comments about LinkedIn, Facebook or Google informing me that I should never do business with them.


Linked in got me my current job via a recruiter blind emailing me with a job spec. My entire job hunting process was "connect with a bunch of people, upload my CV to be autoformatted, add a cool picture". From then on I added any recruiter who spoke to me, and got ~1 job spec a week.

I'm a lazy man and linkedin provided me a service.

PS. They've emailed me to say they'd reset my password, but aren't forcing me to do it as my cookie login or whatever still seems to be valid. "Heh".


Because all the information you add to your LinkedIn is public information that you want everyone to see.

It's not like Facebook where people can get access to personal photos or intimate conversations.


The person in the article didn't post that they were a white supremacist, but somehow LinkedIn communicated that to the world. The issue isn't that they're making information you added public, it's that they're making up information about you.


If you close your account, they'll probably still use your data and then you won't have a way to tell them not to.


As an aside, is it too early for my brain or is the "representing your organization" option contradictory?

http://imgur.com/8sBidJ7

"Choose if we can show your profile information on your employer's pages" shows "Yes" but the text below "Hide my picture and profile information from showing up in this section of a job detail page?" says "Yes". So is it showing or hiding that?


I also got tripped up by that. I eventually decided to go with "yes" to mean "don't show my info". It would be interesting if someone with a smaller employer could test, though.


Yeah I noticed that... I ended up going with "No" as I think the summary would be more correct than the expanded description.


I'm glad you mentioned that, because I had just turned it to "No" while reviewing that page. Now I'm confused.


Seems like yet another LinkedIn dark pattern.


For a direct link to the setting you want to turn off, go to https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/news-mention-broadcast .


It's rather odd that their news algorithm exists in the first place.

I use LinkedIn for one reason and one reason only: to maximize my career options, both in scope and magnitude of opportunities. While I'm happily employed, I learned long ago that if you're not spending a few hours a month thinking about other career opportunities, you're hurting yourself in the long run. LinkedIn is a great platform to stay on top of that several-hours-per-month workflow.

For example, you see that an acquaintance has changed jobs....you send them a text...you grab coffee and talk about their career change....you gather the data point and keep your network primed. LinkedIn has made this process way easier to initiate than it used to be -- for me, at least.

So I really, really don't get why someone thought it would be a good idea to build an algorithm that assigns news stories to LinkedIn members. If I find myself in the news, and I think it's a cool story that makes me look good to potential employers, I can share it to my LinkedIn network. Hell, if I really like the article, I can embed it permanently on my profile.

Thank God I have a relatively rare first-last name combo that makes it very unlikely that something like what happened to Will Johnson could happen to me. That's straight-up nightmare material.

It's pretty boggling that LinkedIn would implement a feature that not only doesn't create value for its users, but actively poses a risk to their ongoing career development. The whole point of the site is essentially to serve as a cloud-mounted, data-rich business card. Why jeopardize that platform with crappy AI that spreads harmful falsehoods about members?


Yikes. I recall a few years ago having to email a bunch of news outlets to ask they reword some headlines. It seemed some sports player with the position of Wide Receiver and the surname Boyce had been misbehaving himself.

I can only imagine the explaining I would have to do if "WR Boyce indicted for child abuse" turned up on my LinkedIn feed.


I think it's so that people can congratulate you first. Think of it as the "local boy makes good" storyline. I've done that a few times when I meant to email someone, got distracted, and was reminded when their name popped up on TwitbookIn or whatever the site is now.

And you're right, "Leroy Masochist" is a rare name combo.. ;)


That's a good point, but isn't the distribution of "local boy makes good" stories a bit of an edge case? I mean do we really need AI to do that for us at the risk of something bad happening?

I'm not trying to imply that you personally agree with LinkedIn's decision, by the way; just trying to get my head around why they think it makes sense.


I think they see it as an issue where most of the time it's "close enough" that if it's wrong it'll just be wrong in a way that people will laugh off and that will still generate engagement.

As long as the cases where it goes wrong enough to be offensive and hurtful are rare enough, there's very little downside to them.


That makes sense as the closest answer (but still guessing).

They could further limit it by location/region or companies mentioned to improve the quality but that may be overkill and reduce the number of notifications too much for their tastes.


> "So I really, really don't get why someone thought it would be a good idea to build an algorithm that assigns news stories to LinkedIn members."

Because pushing any kind of information at users is considered "engagement", which is a term that has been so thoroughly abused that it no longer holds any substantive meaning.


Yeah. The more I mull it over in my head the more I think that it was probably something that seemed like an interesting engineering challenge but was never properly examined as a business decision.


Because (a) it's a thing they can do easily, and (b) the response is usually neutral or positive. Plus, with the disclaimer it would be middling difficult to sue them.

Remember that the business model here is "do the 80% that's easy and let the punters sort the rest out."

Anyone familiar with their subscription numbers? I suspect almost all of their accounts are products, not customers .


The web is simply a comedy of errors and agendas.

- LinkedIn sends the wrong guy's network a libelous e-mail

- Slate reports on said wrongdoing and has to issue corrections about the details [1]

- Turns out the author is a writer with a play to hawk [2]

- And the original 'White Supremacist' gets still more press than most of us want he and his organization to receive.

It all represents everything that is wrong with the web in a single post.

From the article's footnotes:

[1] *Correction, May 25, 2016: This article originally misspelled David Sacks’ last name. It also misstated that his birthday party cost $125 million. It took place in a house then being sold for $125 million. (Return.)

[2] Will Johnson is a teacher and writer based in New York City. His newest play, Blue Balls, will premiere at the Labute New Theater Festival in St. Louis this July.


Given the context, I kinda hope the error/correction was intentional, committed by someone who doesn't like David Sacks.


so his name was misspelled intentionally so linkedin would not inform his lawyer and/or publicist of the article?


How did this "Connections in the news" feature use a person's name and surname to uniquely identify them? This is appallingly asinine, as this example indicates. My name is as generic as they come, and so this is a risk for me. I wonder if LinkedIn were to group its members by name and count them, how many people (excluding those not on LinkedIn) would actually be uniquely determined by a name/surname combo? A quick search for "William Johnson" yields 7,476 results. Why didn't LinkedIn even ask this guy to confirm if he was indeed that William Johnson in the news? What an absolute fuck-up.


You know you're in trouble when the TSA does something better than you.


Did all 7486 William Johnsons on LinkedIn have that sent out to their contacts?

The top William Johnson on my LinkedIn page is black. I wonder if the algorithm cared about the race of the guy in the photo before sending out the mail. In some ways that would be even worse.


I don't remember: they don't ask your race on LI, do they? And let's hope, hope hope that they aren't doing facial analysis of photos for something that is absolutely irrelevant.


I used to have a coworker named Jack Ma. LinkedIn is now my source of all news about Alibaba.


> ask this guy to confirm if he was indeed that William Johnson

I think they now ask recipients of new endorsements to confirm before they're posted. So asking for a confirmation on something as potentially damaging as a news link should be the least they do here -- and the work would be trivial (in the mathematical sense).


>Correction, May 25, 2016: This article originally misspelled David Sacks’ last name. It also misstated that his birthday party cost $125 million. It took place in a house then being sold for $125 million.

Kind of ironic, in an article about accidental identification.


I'm surprised that a "$125 million birthday party" passed the author's BS meter when he wrote it.


When you look at the other things he complains about, you can see he totally wanted it to be true, and so why bother checking it?


Unless of course no person checked it. Might this be, and I am wildly hypothesizing, an experiment with algorithmic content creation?


Using another source of algorithmicly generated content to produce its own content? If it was, then I'd love to see linked in do a news post with this as the news item, which could then force Slate to do a story update.

This guy would never not be in the news!


It would have been even better if Slate had issued a correction explaining that the William Johnson responsible for the play Blue Balls debuting at the Labute New Theater (see author bio at the bottom) was in fact yet another William Johnson


Totally off topic, but there are houses that sell for $125 million?

Yikes.


> It’s similar to the arrogance of Dropbox and Airbnb employees booting neighborhood residents off a soccer field they’ve used for years.

Seriously? People expecting to be able to use a field they reserved using the city's official reservation system is "arrogance"?

If anyone is at fault for that incident it's the city for not getting more input from community, or subsequently not communicating the changes.


Expecting to be able to use it is one thing. Hassling kids over that fact in a remarkably tone-deaf manner is somewhat different.


It was tone deaf, especially posting it on the Internet.

But this article is a good reminder that there are folks who don't like property rights when the wrong people have them.


What "property rights"? Public space is meant to be available to, you know, the public.


> reserved using the city's official reservation system


Concept of park used to mean "public space", usable by rich and poor alike.

Making it available only to people who can afford to pay is very sad.


Ok now... It's not like a bunch of adults went to take over a park just so they could kick the kids off it and sit around and drink beer or something. They went to PLAY SOCCER after going online and seeing they could rent it from the city. How were they supposed to know any different. Also the city didn't rent it out 24/7 they rented out 2 slots on Tuesday/Thursday from what I read. Tradition and culture don't get to trump reality just because. This is the cities fault no the employees who legally rented the space and expected to be able to use it...


Grown men kicking children off of a soccer field, whether they "reserved" it or not, is the most pathetic, lame thing I've heard of in a long time, and they should all be ashamed of themselves. What a bunch of losers.


I feel like the author went too easy on LinkedIn.

> I don’t expect much from companies like LinkedIn, but when their incompetence makes our lives more difficult, they could at least pretend to care a little more.

This had the potential to do a lot more harm than just making his life "more difficult".


I don't trust LinkedIn at all. They are constantly trying to trick you into engaging just a little bit more. One example is iOS accepts of invites to connect. They use cards to show network requests. Once you've gone through the pending batch they use the same card but instead of accepting your now requesting someone or congratulating someone. It's just one of those products where you need to constantly have your guard up.


I'm lucky in that I'm pretty sure my combination of first and last name is a first in history, but I feel for the "William Johnson"s of the world. He is lucky for having there been a notification about this. He could just have easily been passed over for job offers or more after a quick search and no correspondence, just a "we're not interested."

Maybe the European "right to be forgotten" has something to it after all...


I'm not searching for a job right now, but I've decided that the next time I do, my resume will also contain a "This is me" that says what is me on HN, reddit, github, etc., and a disclaimer that anything else with that name isn't necessarily me. There are at least two other programmers that share my name, one of which even has vaguely similar programming language skills, to say nothing of all the other hits it gets. And my handle "jerf" is merely rare, not unique, and not everything that comes up under that is stuff I'm associated with either.

I recommend this to everybody.


I feel reasonably secure that "Morgante Pell" is globally unique and "morgante" is only slightly less so.


I'm the only living person with my name, and websites still confuse me with other people. Not only deceased people, but there's also a couple of clueless middle-aged people I've never heard of that used my gmail address to sign up for various websites - my gmail is first initial + last name, and that is not only clearly not unique but also confusing to some older people.


+1. I'm talking to you Sharon! I'm tired of getting your loan application details and RNC propaganda delivered to my inbox.

I'm just as annoyed at companies that don't bother with any kind of email confirmation click-through before sharing personal information though. I even frequently get one-click links to edit people's profiles with all their personal details.

If it includes a phone number I send them a polite text and ask them to be more careful when typing in their email address. I figure a little stranger danger fear might help motivate them to stop signing me up to be spammed.

OTOH I'm seriously considering leaving behind my many years old GMail at this point. I really only use it as an identity service for other site's logins 99% of the time. I just don't know what the options are and I don't feel like signing up for something that might not be around next year.


I have an ultra-common first and last name combination, and I've never had a problem in the job market. I don't think that it works the way you think it works.


I had an acquaintance named Mike Smith, he was black. Black men get pulled over a lot. When your name is Mike Smith every stop is a felony stop. When he married he appended his wife's last name to his own.


How did the name change prevent him from being stopped?


Since there is only one and only one Mike Whateversmith, the cops couldn't confuse him for someone else.


William Johnson is probably actually pretty safe. It's the people with names just unusual enough that no one has met more than one who have to worry.

For instance, a friend of mine has a somewhat uncommon name. Unfortunately, there's another guy (I think there's only one) on Facebook with the same name who has a borderline racist cartoon as his profile picture. Guess which one comes up first when you search on my friend's name.


> Maybe the European "right to be forgotten" has something to it after all...

All the more dangerous if you can't find out someone is a white supremacist because they've politely asked to have the internet scrubbed all the terrible things they've done.


That's not true at all. If you had those opinions and wanted to keep them to yourself, how could that possibly be a bad thing? Shutting up about biases and intolerance is a fine way to allow clearer thoughts to be heard.


To play devil's advocate, discovering a prospective nanny is a proponent of killing children that look like yours is much better than finding out after you've hired her.


There is a public interest test that could be applied (and is, albeit imperfectly, with the "right to be forgotten").

If said nanny said something 20 years ago and has since changed her views completely it is not really relevant - people's opinions change. If she has actually killed children is very very relevant.


Thinking has become a crime worse than actually doing. Bah.


If you re-read my post you may notice that we are actually in agreement.


Incredible that they would ship something so potentially damaging when they openly acknowledge that it's unreliable. It would be trivial to include an emailed request for confirmation to the subject before spamming her/his contacts. Move fast and break people's reputations!


1. Establish a news website. 2. Spend a few years so people respect your site as legitimate. 3. One day, issue headline "LinkedIn executives X, Y, Z, etc. arrested in pedophile ring investigation". Or some other heinous crime. 4. "Enjoy your update emails, you fuckers."


LinkedIn's likely response: "We had a 'Wrong Person?' link right there." See it? It's in color:#999999 way off to the right.

Edit: Reading the entire article, it appears that is more or less what they said.


Honestly, I have no idea what LinkedIn's strategy and long term goals are. They are supposed to a professional networking site that helps members advance their careers. Now they are trying to play the Facebook and Twitter engagement game of "growth hacking" at all costs. It works for Facebook to spam people and do all sorts of questionable stuff since they are not a professional networking site. But it is completely misguided for LinkedIn to play fast and lose.


They've just started a gig-economy site (Profinder) using their social data to score the workers.

As if there wasn't enough of a reason to game them before.


Libel As A Service arrives!


Nothing new: just post a misleading infographic to Tumblr and they'll take it from there.


There is a fellow with my exact name that used to live in the same town as I did, had a son with the same name as my son. He ran a startup and sold it for large dollars, but ended up with a giant IRS bill on the order of 8 figures.

And one of the fellows on my team worked for him before working for me.

Which is hilarious, but what was not so funny is that the perscriptions at Walgreens for our respective sons ended up tangled up and it took 45 minutes on the phone to straighten it out. After that, Walgreens began verifying your address.

Fortunately my story is mostly positive, unlike this poor fellow.


A libel case resulting from a situation like this could be important in setting precedent for how responsible companies need to be with (for?) their AI.


Simple: penalize the lack of oversight unless it can be proven that an AI/algorithm is significantly superior at performing a task than a human. So if a human trucker is asleep at the wheel while the AI drives and the truck crashes, fault the driver (and possibly company if policy) for negligence. If the driver is awake and the AI glitches out and the driver does the best they can to rectify the situation but still results in a crash, then it it was it is: a mistake.


The question is whether you are rating superiority on the overall set of classifications, or the smaller set of problems. I suspect it's a much easier task to make an AI that's better at reducing accidents than the general public, than it is to do that and also be better given a specific set of error conditions, such as "in a direction with a glare, and with roadwork and changed road conditions, correctly notice that the dog running ahead off to the side with people chasing it might be a situation that could spill into the road..."

In this case though, I imagine they allocated far more resources towards positive correlations than exclusions, since they just want a way to get their name in front of you.


Calling that "AI" is going a bit too far.


You have to code for the 99% of cases, not the 1%. You can't assume there to be more than one example of a combination of the fifth most common first name in the US and the second most common US surname. And even if that happens, you can't expect more than 1% of people to be named William Johnson, so it's better dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Linkedin's market cap is only 17 billion; they're not made of money.


I dunno, I made a joke about "White People" years ago on Twitter (something like "White People won't dance") and then Klout figured I was an expert on "White People" and sent me a free subscription to the Red Bulletin.


From the article: "The nature of profit is that you take more than you give, so it’s not surprising that these billion-dollar behemoths that call themselves startups take far more from us than we get in return."

Other commenters have weighed in on this remark, which displays a shockingly childish view of economics. But if the author believes this, then his decision to use LinkedIn can not be rational, unless his goal is to lose.

I'm not on LinkedIn, but I get emails from them all the time. I assume it's just another cesspool and con job. This guy, at some point, decided to trust them with data about him. I'm finding it hard to feel very sympathetic.


You can fail to understand basic economics, and even make pretty dumb decisions, and still be pissed off if all your friends and colleagues get an email that says you're a racist.


Holy shit.


Yup. But par for the course, when you have a culture of "good enough".

It's all fine until you accidentally Nazificate people...


He should be happy they think his name is real. You can get some real fun going when they won't acknowledge that.


Of all the social networks, LinkedIn in seems to frequently do things that make it look like not only the shadiest social network but also the most incompetent.


stopped reading when I hit this gem:

"The nature of profit is that you take more than you give,"

um, no, actually the nature of profit is that you generate more value than the worth of the inputs. Some (but not all) of that extra value is your reward for doing this. So in fact, the nature of profit is that you make more than you get.

I don't mind anti-capitalist diatribes every now and again, but getting the basics right is a must.


How did this get to the #1 spot of Hacker News?

I love this forum because I find I can engage in meaningful discussion and actually get thought out replies, but it seems like any mention of LinkedIn, degrades into a cesspool of "LinkedIn only spams me!" (Uh... have you heard of email settings?) "LinkedIn is totally irrelevant, I don't understand why people still use it!" (Uh... okay, not everyone has a well paying, highly demanded tech job) "LinkedIn is literally satan. (Uh... okay no argument).

I'm all for constructive discussion about the engineering mistakes or product decisions behind this, but it just seems like its repeatedly the same inane comments about how "useless" LinkedIn is. It seems like stuff like this is always spun into a story about how evil or incompetent a corporation is, but I feel like we tend to forget that at the end of the day, behind these products are simply engineers trying their best to create tools and products that they think add value. (FYI: This email comes from a startup LinkedIn acquired called Newsle.)

(disclaimer: I work for LinkedIn)


Way to defend dark patterns. "Uh... have you heard of e-mail settings?" is particularly tone-deaf when it comes to the terribleness of LinkedIn's e-mail settings.

If the best argument for your product is that people literally have to use it to get by, that's not something to be proud of.


I'm not responsible for the email settings, but could you point out exactly what is terrible about LinkedIn's email settings? I'll link it to you directly: https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/email-controls.

I've had no problem unsubscribing (even as an employee, I'll admit a lot of these emails are not useful to me). The volume of email I receive from LinkedIn, even before I unsubscribed, was much less compared to what I get from Hipmunk or Airbnb. But I don't complain about that in a public forum, because I realize I can unsubscribe, and it's a minor nuisance. (Also, not to bash Airbnb, but I'm a host and I really want to unsubscribe from receiving emails when a guest messsages me, but I can't find the option anywhere!)

It's not my job to convince you to like LinkedIn, but I want to make it clear that our engineers are not in the market of "dark patterns" or whatever you want to spin it as. I will eagerly forward any feedback you have to the engineers who work on email/privacy settings.


Here's the hilarious thing about that page. I've been there before in an attempt to opt-out of LinkedIn e-mails. It has a lot of categories of e-mails it wants me to opt-out of separately, and I know I opted out of all of them that I possibly could last time I was there. (I believe there were other well-hidden pages I also had to go to.)

Since then, you've added one called "Jobs and Opportunities", and it's switched on. This has happened before. Of course your company is aware it's doing this, but it would be bad for business if you never sent e-mail to people just because they unsubscribed, wouldn't it.

It's great that you had me check because now I have solid evidence of the "adding new categories that are automatically opted-in" behavior.

How often do you expect me to log in to LinkedIn, a service that I hate, and remind it that I really don't want its spam?


Well... I'm sorry that you truly hate LinkedIn, and you're definitely free to use whatever services you like. I think you bring up a valid point about emails being default opt-in. Honestly, I'm just a junior engineer so I don't have much sway, but you can take my word that I'll try to find the owners of the email service and bring your issue up.


Because of this article, I decided to review my settings.

To avoid LinkedIn from sending out these dreadful 'In the news' emails, I had to mouse over 'account', then click 'Manage Privacy Settings'. Then you don't actually get privacy settings, but you get 'Account' (go figure.) So you have to click on 'Privacy' again. Then you get 16 different privacy related options. You need to click on 'Change' on "Notifying connections when you're in the news" and click on 'Yes'.

And then you need to review all other 15 settings to make sure they don't do anything nefarious as well, if you're lucky.

Very straightforward, really.


Oh my god, I never would have found that. Thanks for the walkthrough.



> behind these products are simply engineers trying their best to create tools and products that they think add value

Nothing LinkedIn does adds any value to anything. It's like the buzzfeed of social networks. If a constant barrage of clueless recruiters doesn't drive people away, it's the insane "recommendation" engine that gets people who have never touched a line of code to recommend me for Ruby on Rails (I don't even know Ruby).

No matter how many times I told LinkedIn to stop emailing me, they always thought up new features to notify me for (and, of course, enabled them by default).

The entire app is a toxic spamfest. I closed my account long ago and I have NEVER looked back.


LinkedIn is now what Yahoo was after the Microsoft offer fell through.

They're just going to stay in a state of limbo, doing stupid things like this (I bet this 'product' has a whole Product team behind it), getting presumably half of their userbase pwned (makes you wonder if Yahoo ever experienced that) and doing whatever they can to milk their resource/site for new revenue.

I don't think anybody can suggest a decent way for them to keep growing (in numbers and revenue) without some element of sleaziness involved, because they've probably attempted those sleazy strategies already.

Sadly though, like so many proponents here say, LinkedIn has become the monopoly in the professional networking market. So we're all stuck with a shit site that makes privacy-related matters opt-in and nothing can really be done about it (suggesting that a "better linkedin" be started isn't exactly an option either), but we all need it to find better jobs or grow our networks.


> I bet this 'product' has a whole Product team behind it

I bet this product was done by an intern who's no longer there, and lots of people at LI don't even know it exists until someone complains about it.


slow clap

It sounds like a database call somewhere has a cardinality bug, or that they search purely by name instead of some unique identifier.


I'd guess they just search by name, that's all they consistently have to go off for news stories from a third party.


What I wonder is, from a libel perspective, is putting an up-front disclaimer that your association of a person with information is done without even rudimentary validation that is true information about the person it is associated with a defense against libel, or just an admission of one of the key elements of the tort?

I'd be interested to see this litigated; I'm hoping the latter, because otherwise I expect the rate of algorithmic defamation to increase to rather intolerable levels in the not-to-distant future.


From my newspaper days, no amount of disclaiming will get round the fact that they put a picture of the guy next to the article. The test in the UK is if whatever you publish will make a reasonable person think worse of an individual and there are only a handful of very specific defences available, the best of which is that whatever you say is true.


Libel laws in the UK are notoriously very favorable to the plaintiff. At least in the US, the test is more along the lines of "knowingly false".


I'm not entirely surprised. The LinkedIn site and customer service is just awful. Then again I'm not their customer, I'm their product so why should they give a shit about my issues or the issues of the author? Granted mine were more minor but I reported all sorts of issues with their messages system all of which have gone unresolved but one (took them months to finally make my notification indicator go away; an issue one of their engineers confirmed to me was an issue).

Honestly I would just close my LinkedIn account but being in the technology industry it seems almost impossible to escape it if you want to have a career. Yes you don't need it but not having it makes applying for jobs, having people find you, and even you finding jobs all more difficult.


> Then again I'm not their customer, I'm their product so why should they give a shit about my issues or the issues of the author?

You aren't their "product", you are one of very many suppliers, each of which provides a very small quantity of the product they are reselling.

Which is not to say your general point is wrong, but LinkedIn and similar firms aren't in the slave trade.


> LinkedIn and similar firms aren't in the slave trade.

It's just a generalization that people use to describe a technology company that essentially requires users to bring value to a company's paying customers.


I'm familiar with the pattern: I'm saying that its a bad description, and that there is a much better one available.


I don't know seems pedantic to me. I see a very minimal difference between the two. Doesn't even seem like a worthwhile conversation to be honest.


Whilst abhorrent, it's easy to see how this happened. No matter how much you train a machine it will make mistakes in this kind of classification when natural language is involved. Identifying that an article is about something or someone is a very very hard problem.


I agree. I feel this points towards the limits of linguistic-based technology. Relying just on text strings to find correlations/matches is not enough. What I wonder is: why don't recommendation engines go beyond and try to cluster entities by more sophisticated means? It must be possible to determine that, in this case, the person involved was not clustered -not 'close enough'- to the universe of entities related to white supremacists. Relying just on words/names will lead to this kinds of results, specially where ambiguity is involved (the person's name is unfortunately very common).


True, but they could set the threshold higher. Like for instance have it match for both name, last name, and company. There is a tradeoff between accuracy and relevance and that can be tweaked.


Their response time to this sort of thing is dreadful. If their algorithm is this inaccurate and potentially harmful then they need to be responding within at least 3.75 hours to the reporter and within the day they should have a correction that goes out the door.

I wish that they had been sued in this case. There's nothing like losing lots of money on lawyers and damages to drive positive change in most large companies. Pity it has to be that way, but it was a calculated risk that nobody would have their reputation harmed by this dodgy algorithm.


The quote re: David Sacks is incorrect: UPDATE: Sacks tweeted to correct our sources' recollection of the invitation they'd seen: "It's 'let him eat cake' not them. It's a birthday party. Get it?" We get it, David. Apologies for the error. (http://www.businessinsider.com/yammer-david-sacks-party-let-...)


It's good to see how little this author cares to fact-check negative stories about people he doesn't like.

Is sending out a incorrect and reputation-damaging statement better if done by an dumb algorithm or by a self-absorbed human?


yikes, that formatted atrociously. Shame I didn't catch that before the edit went away.


Linkedin keeps suggesting a girl I went on a date with ONE FREAKING MISTAKE OF A TIME, who I seriously never ever want to talk to again, is a potentially awesome connection. I know it's because she let them scan her email inbox. This actually disturbs me more than something which is obviously a mistake. If my professional connections mistake me for a nazi war criminal, well, they're so stupid, they're not worth knowing.


I closed my Linkedin account few days ago. I'm still baffled at how little my life has changed. Actually I just stopped receiving annoying messages!


I've never been on LinkedIn and they spam me constantly.


I have a moderately common name, shared by several people with more impressive public accomplishments than I have. I always laugh about people Googling someone's name to research them, because that'd be completely impossible for me without adding a few search terms.

But you don't even need that. If you've ever searched Facebook for a name, surely you know that most names are not unique identifiers.


Man a similar thing happen. Some random tech blogger wrote an article about a node module I wrote calling it "a new npm" cringe it was pretty embarrassing to say the least.

I wouldn't have shared the article with anyone but all of my LinkedIn connections got pinged with the article. The CTO of npm even called out the article on Twitter. Super embarrassing.


I ended up deleting my LinkedIn and now days I send traffic meant to go to LinkedIn towards localhost in my /etc/hosts file.


I'm very glad about less freedom of speech here in germany. It surely has it's downsides (mostly because it's a slippery slope). Here you would win big in court (several hundred euros, you're rich afterwards), but also you'd win the right to publish a correction on the same place and the same prominence as the original article.


My favorite - if you don't like somebody, give them an endorsement for water fall project methodologies.


Shit like this, plus the leaked passwords is why I decided to deactivate my LinkedIn account altogether


I'm thinking if he wanted to it could be a good oooortunity to come out with a project promoting compassion and do his own humorous meta campaign negating the extremism of his namesake.


My father-in-law has the unfortunate name "David Duke" AND lived in Texas. He always gets asked if he's the leader of the KKK.

He tries to take it in stride and not let it affect him.


I don't understand how people can believe that Google or Facebook "sell people's data" as claimed in the article.

Both of these companies very clearly run their own ad networks and sell people's attention and time, not their data. Why is this completely inaccurate claim so often repeated? Because it's catchy?

Getting angry at how Google and Facebook make money is like getting angry at a cable company for showing commercials. It's not their fault that people watch so much horrible television, nor is it LinkedIn's fault that the author continues to use their horrible site.


Well, that's splitting hairs, isn't it?

If I run a pizza parlor, and somebody describes my restaurant as "selling flour, water and cheese", should I loudly object "No, in fact I take those ingredients and process them into something else that I sell!"


No, they really are different. The objectionable part seems to be that data should be protected and respected, while products made using the data should be treated with less careful scrutiny. Nobody would object morally to a restaurant selling flour, water and cheese.

I think a more apt analogy would be somebody describing the pizza restaurant as "selling an insult to Italian culture". The sale of a culture seems morally objectionable, and the statement is emotionally charged.


Well there's one benefit of having an uncommon name (I've never even met anyone outside of my family with the last name Matyi).


Irony wants that the author made a mistake himself when writing that post. See the (*) note at the end of the page.


Google+ (remember that) keeps asking me if I know myself. It's very existential but clearly idiotic.


> The nature of profit is that you take more than you give, so it’s not surprising that these billion-dollar behemoths that call themselves startups take far more from us than we get in return.

This is an excellent argument for prohibiting the existence of companies, or any commercial transactions at all.


Well he called himself a socialist, so he might be totally down with that. No private exchange of labor or capital allowed in the communist utopia, only free association. Because y'know, if people were unshackled from the burden of capitalism, they'd be beating down your door to mow your lawn, fix your car, etc. for no compensation whatsoever.


But it's not true.

The nature of profit is that you make more than you spend. But that does not mean you take more than you give - value is also created in the exchange (or at least it should be).

(Maybe that is what you're pointing out, reductio ad absurdum? I'm not sure.)


Yes, that was my point. The nature of profit does mean that you receive more from your customer than you give back to them. Gains from trade mean that your customer also receives more from you than they give to you.

I was going to provide that as further text to my original comment, but thought it would be more effective to let the quote speak for itself.

Guess not. :/


Not really. The nature of trade is that people only interact with these startups if they value the good or service greater than they value their cash, privacy, or whatever. Maybe the users are ill-informed, but that's the expectation.


I'll bite, profit comes from creating value, so you don't necessarily give less than you get.

Regardless, linkedin's customers are obviously not the majority of its users.


In fact, for for the normal case of uncoerced transactions, it's safe to assume that both parties are getting more than they give, in ways that provide the greatest utility to themselves.


This (excluding errors of judgment on the part of one of the parties).

One party values money (or data, etc) more than the time/materials/end products and the other party values those end products more than the cash (or privacy, etc): the trade happens. Both parties are ahead of where they started.

This doesn't mean you're always happy with the terms, but it does mean that you're coming out ahead on the deal. If you are willing to do a deal where you know you the other party is coming out ahead and you're not: you're just an idiot.


Good thing it's nonsense, then.


Isn't LinkedIn supposed to have an amazing data science team?

Hmmmm.


Is this not why we have libel laws?


I think intent factors in. LinkedIn's information was false but (in all likelihood) not malicious.


Being malicious makes defamation worse, but it doesn't have to be malicious to defame.


Libel lawsuit immediately...


> My email included the words libel and attorney

I understand why this is offensive, but really?


If an organization circulated emails to all your professional contacts which stated that you were a "white nationalist", would you sit back and rely on their good intentions to resolve things?

Especially if your professional contacts weren't people that worked in tech that could spot a shitty algorithm from a mile off


I'd send an email asking them to change it.

actually it's linkedin, so I'd probably delete the email without reading it and maybe email them when someone asked me about it later.


> I understand why this is offensive, but really?

Well, because (but for the arguable effect of the disclaimer about the algorithm) its clearly libelous, and lots of corporations are very loathe to respond to non-paying user, but more prone to respond if there is a possibility of legal action and associated negative publicity.


Do you not believe this type of mistake could cause monetary and permanent damages to his career?


Well I'm not american so I'm not hardwired TO SUE SUE SUE THREATEN TO SUE.


There are no lawsuits in your country? Im sure even though you are not an American you can appreciate his need to setup a defense immediately when it concerns his livelihood? People are fired and ostracized for much less in this country, especially when it comes to social media outrage.


Is this really a problem? The author doesn't say that anyone from his linkedin network contacted him and asked "Are you a white supremacist?" Most people would see the headline and immediately realize that it was an algorithm error, a common part of daily life. Anyone who was invested in the author's reputation would probably check the details of the story and see that it was talking about a completely different person. I have a hard time imagining that anyone was fooled by this.

If someone could possibly confuse me for a white supremacist Donald Trump delegate then either 1) that person isn't trying very hard and I probably don't want to work with them or 2) I need to take a serious look at my life choices


At this point, I’d received a bunch of messages from confused connections

i.e. some of his connections had contacted him.




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