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LinkedIn Intro is a new service that’s now available for iOS(s aapl) devices and on the surface it sounds great. Intro is extremely similar to Rapportive, a feature I love in Gmail(s goog) because it shows information from LinkedIn(s in) and other sources about the email sender. It allows me to know more about the person sending me the email before I even read the contents of the message. Intro does the same in the iOS Mail client through some fancy engineering.
Unfortunately, the key part of the solution requires your mail to be routed through a LinkedIn proxy server.
I have to give credit to the LinkedIn development team; the solution they’ve created is slick and impressive. All of the details are here if you’re interested — and I recommend the read — but the short story is this: By using an intermediary server, LinkedIn adds useful contact information to incoming emails through some fancy CSS techniques.
Clever? Absolutely! Desirable to end users? Not so much.
LinkedIn provides details of how it uses your data in its Pledge of Privacy. The fact remains, however, that with Intro, the company will have much more of your data than it had in the past. Personally, I’m fine with the profile data I’ve provided to LinkedIn; after all, that’s what the service is for: allowing others to see my professional history, achievements and such.
The thing is: I have total control over that data because I’m the one that provided it in the first place. E-mail is a very different beast because you don’t control what people send you either in the way of message contents, attachments, or links. And with LinkedIn Intro, that’s exactly the data that will be passing through LinkedIn’s proxy server.
There’s no doubt I’d get value out of the contact information provided by Intro in iOS Mail. Is it enough value to provide LinkedIn a peek at every one of my hundreds of daily emails? For me, no.
The idea behind Intro is a sound one and I’ll admit the implementation is impressive. Slick solutions that add another data privacy decision to my daily life, however, aren’t necessarily the best.