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Could LinkedIn ruin your reputation?

LinkedIn Priti Patel
Mistaken identity: LinkedIn can't tell my colleagues and MPs apart

I’ve worked with Priti Patel for the best part of 20 years. She’s a lovely, highly professional Production Editor on my Minecraft magazine and several other titles. She can have a nasty streak if you fail to spot a typo in the headline of a proof, but nobody has ever accused her of being in the Nasty Party. Until now.

Yesterday, I got one my 546 weekly emails from LinkedIn, with the subject line ‘News About Priti Patel’. The body of the email read thus:

Priti Patel emailSeemingly, it hasn’t occurred to LinkedIn that there might be more than one Priti Patel in the world. Instead, it seems to scour reputable news sources such as (ahem) The Sun for news of anyone matching the name of one of your connections, and then serve it up on the off chance. There is, as you may spot in very faint grey, a link to tell LinkedIn it’s got the ‘wrong person’. If only LinkedIn had some other means of verifying that my friend Priti Patel isn’t the Priti Patel… like her sodding job title, which is of course contained within her LinkedIn profile!

Even more annoyingly, the Priti Patel in the story is actually on LinkedIn, making it easy for the site to cross-reference against the story. Although the MP needs to update her profile when she gets a minute…

Priti Patel MP LinkedIn profile

There is a serious point to all this, though. What if the story in The Sun had been about someone fired for sexual harassment, or being sent to prison for fraud, or some other misdemeanour? Is the site trashing your reputation because you just so happen to share the same name as a sex offender, a paedophile or another type of newsworthy criminal?

Bear in mind that many LinkedIn contacts are loose connections – people you’ve met once at a conference, or maybe never met in person at all. The case of mistaken identity might not be as patently obvious as it was with my friend Priti and the now notorious MP.

Many people use LinkedIn to boost their chances of getting a job. These emails could easily ruin your reputation.

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day.

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