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Security Researcher's Spine Shivers Over LinkedIn Intro
Posted October 24, 2013
Security Researcher's Spine Shivers Over LinkedIn Intro
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By Jennifer LeClaire. Updated October 24, 2013 11:27AM

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It’s rare for a social network to roll out a new sharing feature without raising privacy advocates’ eyebrows. LinkedIn’s new Intro service is no exception.

While many are complimenting the business social media platform for its innovation, others are concerned that the company is rolling out an app that’s ultimately going to expose iPhone users’ data.

LinkedIn Intro is based on technology from Rapportive, which the company acquired in 2012. Intro is supposed to be a groundbreaking mobile product that tackles mobile e-mail challenges. It brings Rapportive’s technology to the Apple Mail app on the iPhone.

“Intro shows you LinkedIn profiles in your iPhone Mail app,” explained Pahul Vohra, who co-founded Rapportive and now works for LinkedIn. For example, with Intro you can put faces to the names of people who e-mail you. LinkedIn basically serves up the sender’s profile. The idea is to help you write more effective e-mails, establish rapport, and grow your professional network by connecting with people on LinkedIn.

Is It Trustworthy?

It sounds like a good idea on the surface. You can see the e-mail sender’s strongest mutual connections. You can scroll down and see the sender’s occupations, past and current, and his full description. You can even see where the sender sent to school. But is it overkill?

We asked Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, for his take on the drama. He told us The app adds some valuable context and contact data to iOS email, however there will be concern about privacy and LinkedIn's access to users' mail.

“Most people, to the extent they understand that e-mail has to be routed through LinkedIn's servers to deliver the additional information, will be unlikely to trust and adopt the new service,” Sterling said.

“The timing of this is unfortunate, against the backdrop of heightened online privacy concerns and surveillance in the news almost daily. Beyond these issues, many non-business professionals simply won't see the need for the service,” he said.

Shivers Down the Spine

Graham Cluley, a senior security analyst at Sophos, is advising against using the app. Although he admits it’s pretty nifty from an engineering point of view, he said from the security and privacy perspective it “sends shivers” down his spine. Strong words.

“I’m not suggesting that it has created LinkedIn Intro with any malicious intentions -- unless you consider them injecting an advertisement for their its brand in every e-mail malicious -- but clearly security is not part of the company’s DNA and that troubles me,” he wrote in a blog post.

“Furthermore, I find it hard to imagine any security-conscious firm being comfortable with its employees handing LinkedIn access to its e-mails. And why do you even need LinkedIn Intro anyway? If you receive a business e-mail from someone, don’t they normally have a sig at the bottom explaining who they are, and who they work for?" he asked. "What real advantage are you getting by having LinkedIn rifle through every e-mail you receive? Is it just that they put it at the top of the message, rather than require you to scroll to the bottom?”

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Jack:
Posted: 2013-10-25 @ 12:23pm PT
Agreed, this is a terrible feature from not only a security perspective, but also a privacy perspective. I don't have Facebook due to privacy concerns and I might cancel my LinkedIn account because of this new "no privacy" direction LinkedIn is apparently taking.

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