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After an exchange this week with a member of the Customer Support team at LinkedIn, I have been told definitively that unless I block all communication I can't technically block any one person from sending me unsolicited emails.
If you work in SEO in the Manchester area, you'll probably know who I'm talking about here, but a certain, rather notorious, recruitment consultant, known for aggressively and relentlessly emailing every SEO consultant in the city has been regularly attempting to contact me via LinkedIn and Twitter. I have now reported her emails as spam to LinkedIn three times - as I know she's just fishing out of desperation. Even if she did have a relevant job, I know enough about her tactics to know I never want to use her services - either to hire staff or to change jobs.
After the 3rd InMail recently, I sent the following complaint to LinkedIn:
I have reported the following individual for sending me spam on at least 3 occasions: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
How many times do I have to click "report spam" before she's blocked from harassing me? She is a recruitment consultant with an appalling reputation within the Manchester Digital/IT community and I know of a number of peers from other companies who have also reported her for spam here, yet she continues to be allowed to send us unsolicited emails about jobs she probably doesn't even have listed with her agency. All you have to do is ask under the #mancseo hashtag on Twitter - it'll be an eye-opener.
Can you please do something about this? I've even emailed her company and asked them to stop her contacting me and it's done no good."
I received the following response:
Thanks for contacting LinkedIn Customer Service and bringing this to our attention. I will review the member's messages to ensure there are no violations to the User Agreement. In the meantime, please make sure your profile does not show "Contact Mindy for" and the reasons you would not like to be contacted for, such as with career opportunities.
Thank you for being a valued member of our LinkedIn community!"
I double checked and my profile settings do allow people to contact me with "Career Opportunities." This isn't a setting I particularly want to change - if nothing else, I can often tell which of our competitors are looking for people based on the InMails I receive.
So, I sent the following response:
Thanks for you help. I don't want to change my settings; most of the time I don't mind getting those emails - but in this instance the recruiter in question is, quite frankly, a blight on the entire recruitment industry - and I have asked both her and the unscrupulous company for which she works (and the one she used to work for) to leave me alone to no avail. There should be some way to stop an individual like this from bothering me, surely? "
I remain flabbergasted by the reply:
Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately, if you have it selected that you are open for career opportunities, we are not able to take action on the member. You can decline the inMails and this will go towards their feedback score which could affect the member:
Answer Title: InMail Feedback Score Overview
Answer Link: https://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/138
You can also adjust your settings under Email Preferences to select the types of messages you are willing to receive. "
LinkedIn Will Not Let You Block PRO Members
Essentially, the only way to stop one recruiter from harassing me is to stop ALL recruiters from ever being able to contact me no matter what.
LinkedIn appears to have NO FUNCTION to block individual spammers who pay for PRO access.
In fact, the FAQ page to which I was directed informs me that while a PRO member with poor feedback won't have their InMails show up in my email inbox, they will still show in my messages on LinkedIn - so I can't get rid of them, no matter how bad they are.
Now, call me crazy, but people used LinkedIn for legitimate business. LinkedIn is one of the few social networks where people are happy to have entirely accurate, and traceable personal information - because without it, the site couldn't serve its purpose. Where it's used correctly it can help businesses make new contacts and help people find jobs (or new staff).
Surely, off the back of this, LinkedIn should make protecting the data of its members its #1 priority so people cannot abuse the wealth of personal information on the site by allowing people to block those individuals that are abusing the service.
While I realise deleting InMails is easy - and I don't receive so many that I'm being deluged by spam - in certain instances I'd like to remove myself from having to deal with certain people. My data is my data - I want control over who is and is not allowed to see it, and I should have a way to say to somebody with whom I definitively do not want to do business (EVER) that they should go away - permanently.
I know I bleat on about privacy a lot, but where we're putting personal data into the public sphere it's important to set the boundaries very clearly as to acceptable use of that data - and it's extremely important that we can all feel safe that our data won't be accessible to people who make us feel uneasy, unsafe, or who we simply don't want involved in our professional (or personal) lives. In a world where having a publicly accessible CV is vital to professional success, surely we should have more choice than "accessible to all" and "accessible to none".
The sad fact is that LinkedIn has us over a barrel as there is not a viable alternative that is anywhere near as far-reaching or entrenched and I cannot offer a solution other than very loud, angry complaining about my loss of privacy rights.