Professional social media platform LinkedIn has been creating fake accounts under the names of people users may know, and tricking users themselves into soliciting their contacts into joining.
Under the “People You May Know” section of LinkedIn, users typically see a list of potential contacts the site estimates you know based on established connections. Some of those listed are current users, and some are not. LinkedIn purposefully engineers the fake accounts to look legitimate, prompting a user to click the “Add to Network” button on someone they “may know.”
LinkedIn then sends an email to the contact a user thought they were connecting with, and invites them to create an account. The social media site obtains the email address by scanning a user’s email contacts when they choose to open their email via the platform.
User Robin Fisher said the practice purposefully “misrepresents” accounts in order to boost membership in a Friday post, and described it as a very disingenuous way of increasing its user base.
“In doing so, it misleads its users into thinking they are connecting with people who already use the service,” Fisher wrote.
Fisher illustrated his findings with one of his LinkedIn results from the “People You May Know” section. One of the people listed was a relative of Fisher’s who passed away a year ago and “barely understood email, let alone LinkedIn.”
“Another example of the lengths LinkedIn will go to in order to increase its user base,” Fisher said. “I grow more and more discontent with their methods.”