Something odd happened when I checked my LinkedIn profile the other day. In the "People You May Know" section, I noticed a vaguely familiar face - it was someone I had met through online dating. We had gone on maybe two dates nearly two years ago, yet there she was, being suggested to me by LinkedIn's creepy algorithm. If this has ever happened to you, here's what you can do to stop it.
It was a little awkward to see this person being suggested to me, sure, but it was more alarming than anything. How did LinkedIn know? I had chatted briefly with this person on OkCupid, exchanged numbers, and that's it! No email exchanges, no adding each other on social networks, or anything else like that. Well, LinkedIn has their ways. The platform can suggest people to you via a number of sources, including:
- People that share connections with you
- People in your email contacts list
- People in your mobile phone contacts list
- People that you've searched for on LinkedIn
- People that have searched for you on LinkedIn
- People that you've Googled while your browser is logged into LinkedIn
Those are just a few examples — not to mention the information LinkedIn shares with third-party applications and plugins using their API. Basically, if you've ever joined an online dating site and exchanged numbers (especially if you have the LinkedIn mobile app or used LinkedIn on a mobile browser), exchanged emails, or searched someone before a date (which is pretty common), there's a good chance you'll see some ghosts of dating past pop up. Unsurprisingly, they explain very little of this on their People You May Know Overview page. So, what can you do to stop this? Several things.
Remove the Suggestions
First, log in to your LinkedIn account and head to the "People You May Know" section on the LinkedIn site and remove the people you don't want on there. Otherwise, they will just hang around until you do something. Here's an explainer on how to do that. Once you remove them, they won't come back.
Update Your Mobile and Email Conacts
Because LinkedIn will access your phone and email contacts, now's a good time to go through those and remove old numbers and email addresses you don't need to keep around. As it turns out, this was the source of my problem. Nestled deep in my phone's contacts was the person who had popped up in my "People You May Know" section, listed under only a first name. Whoops! Be sure to check your Google contacts page as well, especially the "frequently contacted" and "other contacts" tabs. You can also de-sync all of your Gmail and Google Calendar contacts on this page.
Change Your Contacts and Visibility Settings
You don't have to sync your contacts for someone to appear in your "People You May Know" section. If they sync their contacts, and you're on that list, that person will likely be suggested to you as someone you may know. You can stop this by adjusting who can see you with your contact info. Log in to LinkedIn, then head to this page and adjust your sync and visibility settings:
- Manage who can discover your profile from your email address: Set to "Nobody" or "2nd-degree connections" (which requires them to be connected with someone you're already connected with in order to see you and vice versa).
- Manage who can discover your profile from your phone number: Set to "Nobody" or "2nd-degree connections". You may even want to remove your mobile phone number from your profile entirely.
Now, even if you're in some random person's contact list because you texted them about your favourite movies and how much you love to travel that one time, you won't pop up in their "People You May Know" section, and they won't pop up in yours.
Disable Third Party Access
Make your way to your personal settings page, then head to the "Ads" tab. Scroll down to the "Third party data" section and disable everything. In fact, go through every setting on this page and consider disabling things. Everything is turned on by default, so lock your profile down according to your preferences.
These adjustments should help you avoid most of the creepy awkwardness in the future, as well as keep you out of most people's "People You May Know" sections. But who knows how deep LinkedIn's knowledge of you truly goes?