From time to time I am asked to register into the LinkedIn “professional network” by acquaintances or colleagues.
The e-mails I receive always make for a difficult reply, since they are phrased as “invitations” and use terms such as “my professional network”. One can always opt out of a commercial offer, but turning down a personal invitation is always a delicate social operation1. I hope here to provide an explanation that hopefully won’t offend those who send me these e-mails.
Despite the careful wording and the good intent of the sender, they are commercial offers. LinkedIn makes its money by reselling the information entered into its database by members. A quick scan of their terms of service yields
[…] You grant LinkedIn a[n] irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited […] right to us to […] use and commercialize […] any information […] you submit to LinkedIn.
This is among a thick mix (a cloud?) of clauses all unnecessarily transferring control and rights in a single direction, as is often the case with services where you pay nothing yet are made to feel like you are the customer.
I am lucky today to not strongly need to find new professional relations. The balance is therefore unequivocally towards opting out. In other words, I can afford today to not have a company sell “the list of Olivier’s colleagues in 2009” to the highest bidder next year. It’s like not being on Facebook: it sounds like quite a good deal.
- It is an amusing paradox that the shyest people are probably the most likely to accept such requests [↩]