Lewis' Blog Tales from the trenches of information technology


Stopping Linkedin spam

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What is spam, anyway?

Besides being a type of processed meat, the merits - or lack thereof, in my humble opinion - of which I shall not discuss at the moment, spam refers to UBE, an acronym for Unsolicited Bulk Email.

  • Unsolicited = the recipient did not ask for the message(s);
  • Bulk = the same - or similar - message was sent to a mass audience (the definition of mass is sort of like pornography: I can't define it, but I know it when I see it);
  • Email = electronic messaging

The above notwithstanding, society as a whole has come to expand the concept of the "E" to include facsimile communications and SMS (Short Message Service, or texts, in common lingo).

You will find several posts of mine dealing with what I consider be to the scourge of the 21st century: social networking sites.

So what is Linkedin?

Supposedly, it's like any of the other social networking warehouses (read: caches of otherwise private information, blindly posted in public fora by an unsuspecting populace) but with a twist - it's business related.


If you want to learn more about this enterprise, I suggest a quick Google or Wikipedia search.

Anyway, as this particular post deals specifically with the UBE facet of this dreadful site, I'll reserve comments on the site as a whole for a later date. Right now, I want to get into the annoyance of all of those "Reminder about your invitation from so-and-so" emails.

As with all spammers, the only way to really stop the noise is not to go to the source, but to go to your firewall. After all, what is possibly in it for Linkedin to discard your email address? I have a new rule which simply blackholes these things. (For those who are not familiar with this term in this context, a blackhole rule is one which silently discards a message without sending a response to the sender that the message has not been delivered to the ultimate recipient).

In another post, I'll talk about the common misconception that clicking the "opt-out" link in an unsolicited email actually opts one "out" of anything (instead of "into" more of the same; an interesting reference in TV pop-culture was portrayed in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode, "Appearances".)

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  1. Lewis,

    I’m not sure why linkedin deserves special hate. I have nothing on my linkedin profile I would not put in a public resume (such as this one http://careers.stackoverflow.com/zippy1981), and nothing more useful for digging into my background than you do on the section of your website where you give a very extensive company history including locations of former offices.

    Their model of premium access so I can get spammed by recruiters is kinda weird. However, I rarely get inmail.

    If your problem with social networking is you get bothered with emails I can understand that. You deal with a lot of B2B small business guys so people want to network with you. I don’t have a facebook account and sit next to a guy that writes facebook apps for our clients fan pages so I can relate to the annoyance of “peer pressure” to join these sites.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, my friend…

      It’s not really that Linkedin deserves any special dislike (or hatred) from me. I’ve never received an invitation from any of the other social networking sites to “friend” anyone, and then, after ignoring the first request, get a second, third, fourth, and so on.

      I’m currently dealing with a request from a client who is not very tech savvy. She apparently just dumped all of her address book into Linkedin (a topic of/for another post of mine, concerning how email addresses are continually mistreated), and now, I am (again) bombarded by these requests to join her on Linkedin.

      In contrast, I have another client located in The Netherlands who is indeed quite tech savvy (he’s a software developer). When he joined Linkedin, he sent a personal email to me, asking how I felt about such things, and telling me that he’d signed up just to see how it might work out. He didn’t provide my email address to the site, so no spam ensued.

      My whole bent against these social networking sites is that if I own a billboard, I can paint whatever I want on it. If I let other people do the same, and I don’t like what one of them has painted, I can then take it off. If someone else owns the billboard, however, the choice is not entirely mine (if at all). Instead, I open myself up to a host of possibly unsavory postings which somehow get related to my name through association on that site.

      Blogging is one thing. Handing over control of my blog space to someone else is another. 😉

      The point of this post, however, was just how to deal with these UBE requests (they are unsolicited, they are sent in bulk, and they are email). To me, it’s just like any other kind of spam, it’s just that here, an erstwhile “friend” has provided the cannon fodder (my address).


  2. Blogging is one thing. Handing over control of my blog space to someone else is another.

    You have a good point. However, there is the internet way back machine recording everything that stays on the internet for any length of time.

    BTW, few people “own their own internet billboard” and fewer own the building it is bolted to. My email account is provided by google (and backed up via thunderbird running on a machine that has daily backups). I could run my own IMAP server on an old desktop in my basement, host my blogs there, etc etc. However, that would mean me spending time maintaining a mail server. Perhaps I’d be more inclined to do so if I maintained mail servers for several clients (and therefore already pay the sunk cost of keeping abreast of mail server vulnerabilities). Perhaps I’d feel obligated to if people emailed me sensitive financial information regularly.

    Now, generally speaking, google provides me a nice mail client, which I prefer over the always running copy of thunderbird minimized on my laptop and evolution minimized on my netbook. I am prudent in what I say and do over email and on twitter. Some people are not and need to be protected from themselves. I’ve always leaned towards letting people suffer the pain of their mistakes.

    In the end everything is a trade-off. You should be prudent in what you make public, but you should also generally act prudently. Technology has reached a point where you can’t have an intrinsic expectation of privacy. In the end you mitigate you risks, and accept the consequences of your actions. Its up to each of us to decide what is acceptable risk, and what is beneficial enough to warrant said risk.

  3. Your last paragraph sums it up quite nicely, and frankly, I couldn’t put it better, myself.

    I, too, have a gmail address, and my WebOS device is inextricably tethered to it (odd paradox, that: the OS is decidedly top competition to Android, yet Palm (now HP) decided that Google would be the be-all and end-all in backup & sync for them). That said, I am careful about where I spread my addresses around, and which ones I keep private, specifically to avoid the “internet is forever” problem.

    I also agree that running my own mail server makes much of this easier for me (I can create throw-away aliases at will, for such things like “free” e-cards). However, for those people who already have my address, it is extremely frustrating that they do not treat that information with as much respect as I treat theirs (and I have a related blog post about that, here).

    Good thing you back up your gmail account, too!

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