Controversy erupted on the internet today when a months-old Quora post resurfaced on Twitter, accusing Microsoft-owned LinkedIn of gaining access to email contacts that users don’t believe they’ve shared with the service. LinkedIn was ultimately forced to respond and try to explain how it is gaining access to the data.
LinkedIn has long been criticized for its data practices and for generating reams of “spam” in customers’ email inboxes.
The Quora poster, in a May missive, showed correspondence where a customer service specialist told him that LinkedIn could access his email contacts automatically simply because he was logged in to both LinkedIn and Gmail on the same browser.
The Quora poster copy/pasted his conversation with the LinkedIn customer service specialist, who appeared to provide some pretty damning information about the company’s privacy practice.
“What you have encountered is that the people you may know could have been uploaded to LinkedIn through auto authorization if you had at any time your LinkedIn account open and accessed any of your emails through the same browser.”
A Twitter user today tweeted out the thread, causing a stir and forcing LinkedIn to respond.
This is fucking incredible. LinkedIn grabs contacts from gmail if you've got both open in the same browser session: https://t.co/GGIto5RkBC
— John Maynard (@brokenkey) October 6, 2016
The product manager of LinkedIn’s contacts import products, Barry Huang, replied to the Quora post this afternoon to clear up the matter. Huang said the customer service specialist’s answer was “erroneous” and that LinkedIn always asks for permission to access emails. Huang seemed to blame the issue on the contact sharing consent screen in the Android LinkedIn app.
Despite the refutation, stories of LinkedIn’s gaining dubious access to personal information still pepper the internet, and many won’t be satisfied with the company’s steadfast denial.