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Are you leaking your LinkedIn connections email addresses?

A colleague of mine recently forwarded me an angry email that someone had sent him through LinkedIn. The email was a reply to a message he has sent through LinkedIn to a select few of his connections.

The person who’d email him was annoyed because he has inadvertently shown all recipients email addresses on the message. Unfortunately the person who’d emailed him had used “Reply to All” to tell him exactly what he thought of this mistake.

How and why did this happen?

Well, LinkedIn has what I think is a serious flaw when emailing internally within its system, and it sits in a small check box right under the message you are sending out.

Can you see the culprit?

LinkedIn have a box giving you the option to ‘Allow recipients to see each other’s names and email addresses’ when sending to multiple connections. Now this alone, is not necessarily an issue, as sometimes you may want to. But the crucial mistake LinkedIn have made is that the default is to do exactly that, and share those personal details with everyone you are emailing.

So why is this a problem?

1. In the example above, if someone has an issue with anything you have sent them, they can ‘reply to all’ and include the entire distribution list on their response. In this case it unfortunately was a misunderstanding that would have been easy to rectify and deal with had it been a one to one communication.

2. Some people feel very strongly about their personal details being shared, and in this instance, you are ultimately giving out all of these email addresses to people they are not necessarily connected to. At the very least, you could cause an irritation when they start to receive unsolicited mail. Ultimately you can reduce the trust they have in you, potentially damaging any further relationship you could build.

Will LinkedIn change this feature? Who knows.

What I do know is that you need to take responsibility and make sure you are reading options thoroughly. And if you do receive a mail where you can see everyone’s address (and they can see yours) don’t automatically jump to attack. Kindly send a reply just to them, making them aware of the setting. The likelihood is that they did not know it was there.

This is a similar mistake to using ‘CC’ instead of ‘BCC’ in emails which can have an embarassing result.  Have you ever made a mistake like this?  Let me know in the comments below.

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