Think Hard Before You Get Linked In

By | November 20, 2008

I’ve been trying to remove a contact on LinkedIn who proudly claims to be one of the best linked people on the planet. Why that’s a good thing I’m not sure, but I noticed I was getting LinkedIn spam—spam to my own email address, but coming via LinkedIn–from this person, so I tried to remove him

Turns out that it wasn’t enough. This morning I got an email from another guy claiming to be the best connected person on the planet (“(he is one of the most linked people in the world”) who said I had been referred to him by none other than the LinkedIn spammer guy I thought I’d removed eight months ago. He wrote:

If so, then please accept my connection request. Since I presently have over 8,900 first tier connections, I cannot send an invitation to you because I have exceeded my limit. Therefore, to connect with me and to benefit from the millions of total connections that I have, click here: [LINK DELETED] and enter my email address [EMAIL DELETED].

So what gives? How come someone I removed from my LinkedIn network is able to refer me to someone else who has somehow been able to get my email address despite not being my buddy, nor connected to a buddy of mine? I’m asking LinkedIn about this, but I also wanted to know what happened to the original spammer I’d deleted. Was he still in my system?

Turns out he is.

Removing a connection in LinkedIn is not, it turns out, the same as removing a contact. It seems to work like this (and I might be wrong, because the explanations on LinkedIn are contradictory.)

The FAQ says you remove a connection via the Remove Connections link:


which takes you to a separate list:


What you’ll notice about this list is that, unlike your Connections list, it’s not alphabetical. Well it is, in that you can jump straight to a letter (M, say) but within that list the contacts are not in sub-alphabetical order. A cynic would say this is an extra deterrent to connection-pruning, but I’m not a cynic so I won’t say that.

But you might notice this:


Huh? Good that the connection won’t be notified that they’ve fallen off your Christmas card list, but how come they’ll still be on my list of contacts? And  how does it square with this other note, on the same page, that says:

Note that once this action is completed this individual will not be able to be added back as a connection.

So the person you’ve gone to all this trouble to remove will still be in your contact list—no way that I can see of removing them from there—but you can’t change your mind and then re-add them back as connection. You can, however, re-invite them, and, indeed, they will remain in your contact list as a constant reminder.

(Just out of interest, how do you re-invite someone to be a connection who didn’t know you’d banished them before? How do you explain that, exactly? “Sorry, I hated you before, but now I don’t hate you anymore?” Could be a good lyric in there.)

Confused? So am I? But here’s the kicker: Does the fact that he’s still in my contacts, and that he’s out there, apparently, recommending me to other LinkedIn spammers, mean I’m still in the LinkedIn spammer’s list of connections?

I suspect it does, because he’s still in my list of connections (but not in my Remove Connections list, if you’re still with me) and he’s still listed as 1st in my list of connections—meaning we still have a connection.

In other words, unless this is a glitch, it is impossible to remove a connection from LinkedIn once you’ve established one.

I’m going to ask LinkedIn to shed light on this. But if it’s true, it should give you pause for thought before you accept a connection via the otherwise useful service. It’s one thing to build one’s network. It’s another to find you have no control over that network—and who in that network might use the information you put there—once it’s built.

12 thoughts on “Think Hard Before You Get Linked In

  1. Xenia

    Yeah, tell me about it, I was ‘connected’ to a gentleman who passed away three years ago…. poor guy is spooking on LinkedIn for ever. Several emails to customer support eventually dissolved the connection, but his profile is eternalized on LinkedIn… somehow the social networks don’t consider mortality… Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving anyways!

  2. Steve Duncan

    Go to “Imported Contacts” off the main screen, then click “select all”, then “Delete Selected Contacts” at the bottom of the screen. It gets tedious if you have many to delete, but they are deletable.

  3. Steve Duncan

    Another thing – you’re probably getting spam because some folks download their Linkedin connection lists to seed newsletters and other email campaigns. Even if you disconnect, you’re still on the list.

    I recently axed about 3800 connections. It took a while, and I still get a bit of spam, but nothing from Linkedin as you describe.

    I definitely agree that Linkedin talks about of all sides of its mouth with regard to networking ethics. The TOS talk sternly about connecting only to those you know well, but then there’s a banner ad touting their utility for automatically inviting everyone in your address book. Take a guess at how many read the TOS, and how many read the banner ad.

  4. Jeremy Wagstaff

    Steve, Xenia, thanks for the comments. I’m disappointed LinkedIn PR didn’t respond to my request for comment. Although LinkedIn is clearly useful for a lot of people, I wonder where this kind of thing tips it over the line into being more of a nuisance.

  5. Gary

    Interesting article. Enjoyed the read.
    Unfortunately the “rabbit hole” goes much deeper than this my friend.
    I’ll keep my open for your follow up article.

  6. rachel

    Anyone that signs up for a LinkedIn account voluntarily is asking for all they get. It’s a spam facilitation service, primarily used by salespeople and recruiters to spam people they don’t know, and who don’t wish to hear from them. LinkedIn even sends ‘reminders’ on behalf of such people, when you as a non-user of LinkedIn choose to ignore the ‘invitation’ e-mails such people send, all the while providing no means to decline or indicate that further unsolicited e-mails/invites are not welcome. Then their ‘privacy’ department plays dumb if you should complain, claiming that all you need to do is adjust your account settings (you know, the account that DOESN”T EXIST AND YOU HAVE NO INTEREST IN OBTAINING, EVER). It’s to be hoped that more ISPs will begin to filter the junk they allow to be sent via their site automatically, and that LI will die a much-deserved corporate death.

  7. FYI

    Hello and thanks for posting this informative article. LinkedIn seems to have fixed the problem you mentioned. I recently removed a few contacts and see that they are not still in my contact list.

  8. FYI

    LinkedIn seems to have fixed this problem since your post – probably due at least in part to your mentioning it. Thank you for telling us (and them).

  9. Dave

    I’d love to know what you find out here. I’ll look at Steve Duncan’s suggestion. I went to lots of trouble to get rid of links where I don’t care about the RSS feeds but I still get them on the people I got rid of. Not much benefit at all to removing a connection…

  10. tori

    I just deleted my LinkedIn, totally not worth the hassle of getting the same spooky email for years asking “do you know…” when it’s some guy I don’t want to see! And connections to my ex! And there’s no way to remove them because they didn’t send invites. When I signed in I tried to send a contact a message by clicking send message, then instead of letting me write him a message it asks who to send the message to! and then it shows a pic of someone I want to add then it asks her email address, doesn’t just let me add her! I didn’t want to put it in as they must have it already and they don’t say why they want it–to make sure i know her? You can know someone and not know their email or have a different email. Then I tried to recommend a contact. Well I had long ago deleted my profile so it wouldn’t let me recommend her! and, it said I had 3 emails in my inbox and there was just one! and there was a button that said accept invitations (I was hoping that might lead to getting rid of the spooky ones) but I was afraid to click it fearing it would accept them all. Finally I clicked it but it didn’t go to them. The whole thing is lame, useless and creepy, not even amusing like Facebook can be. Just the same spam over and over for years, reminders, as if you want reminders from people because you just happened to be in their address book dump. And this co. is going to have some IPO with Champagne. I’ll be missing the party.

    –Linked OUT

  11. AS

    I created a dummy LinkedIn account and got connected with the dummy. Then removed the dummy connection from connection list of my real account. Unfortunately, the removed connection continues to get my updates, what I like etc… I am very upset with LinkedIn. I wrote them several times but received no feedback. There are other unpleasant features such as keeping your resume files without giving you a chance to delete them etc… I use LinkedIn for business connections, that is, to connect with people in my area of profession. I have never met with some of them in person -they were kind to accept my request for invitations-. Also I noticed all my connections post business related stuff, some of them are very helpful. I don’t agree with the fact that only people that know each other are to be in connection.

  12. RL

    I, too, am leery , however, since this post is dated 2008, I am curious to know if you are still holding with these sentiments, and if not, do you attribute that to a personal change in outlook or the LINKED-IN platform evolving in some way, I tend to not be so abreast in terms of consumer-friendly adaptations…


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