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Good news, bad news: LinkedIn data in iOS Mail arrives but it can read your mail

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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.

linked in intro

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.

intro imap proxy

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.

6 Responses to “Good news, bad news: LinkedIn data in iOS Mail arrives but it can read your mail”

  1. oneblankspace

    When you log in to LinkedIn, they ask you for your email address and email password so they can access your contact lists — this is (was) right at the top of the homepage. You are already logged in and don’t need to give this to them.

  2. anon too

    Yes, its funny the way people think. Give me one more chance to say no, after I already said yes. Yes, that’ll work! Anything to spare them the time required to read the Privacy Policy and make a decision about what they are willing to give up to use the site..

    Companies want to make money. Even non-profits need cash to keep going. I wonder how they would suggest the social network sites pay for the service they provide everyone. User fees? There is no such thing as a “free” version. They will use data created from what you do on their site. Privacy costs money. Would it be better to pay each time you enter or browse a website?

  3. Doc Moore

    I recently became aware that LinkedIn can access my private email contacts list and that they do so. They even notified me that I could add the people in my email contacts to my LinkedIn contacts if I wanted to. Well hell, I know I can add anybody I want. I don’t need some desperate LinkedIn marketing effort to tell me that.
    What I didn’t know is that my private “contacts list” of people’s email addresses, is available without my conscious knowledge or permission to LinkedIn for any purpose they may actually have in mind. Of course I do not believe their “Privacy Statements”, but I thought I could control what information they gather. WRONG.
    I complained to LinkedIn, but they have not responded. I plan to file a complaint with the FBI, but would like to have a response from LinkedIn first.
    The point — if you blindly trust corporations, they will access your information. They will strike deals with 3rd parties, or hack you directly. Buried somewhere in the microprint of some Terms of Use document, I have probably unwittingly consented to this. That, to my way of thinking is a form of fraud or criminal invasion of privacy. The default mode of any access should require an active and conscious double opt-in to allow. Otherwise access should be inherently and automatically denied. But that may not be how it works.
    I intend to find out if it can be stopped. Sounds like this new “INTRO” is just another tool they can use to gather info they can sell to whomever they choose.

  4. Why not the NSA already reads everything now.
    How many programs are now compromised with secret backdoors force on by NSA?
    What do privacy policies mean anyway, when courts force them to stay silent.