Nowadays, plenty of companies will — with permission — scan your contacts to find people you know already using their app or service. But LinkedIn may be taking things a step too far; users have complained about the company's "people you may know" section listing contacts who aren't even on the professional networking site. But you'd have no idea simply looking at the tool, which makes it seem as if they're active LinkedIn members, complete with an "add to network" button that's akin to a Facebook friend request. Instead of linking two existing accounts, though, hitting that button will dispatch an email asking your selected contact to create a LinkedIn account. Essentially, what you're sometimes seeing are non-existent ghost accounts.
As user Robin Fisher found out, this can quickly create confusion — and is more than a bit disingenuous. He claims that LinkedIn is intentionally misrepresenting its user base in an attempt to boost signups. To illustrate that point, he posted a screenshot from LinkedIn that lists his deceased aunt in the "people you may know" section. The only problem is that his aunt "barely understood email, let alone LinkedIn," according to Fisher. The company "misleads its users into thinking they are connecting with people who already use the service," he says. Comments on Fisher's post suggest he's not alone in his frustration, and users have also turned to LinkedIn's forums seeking answers. Scanning contacts to help users quickly forge professional relationships is one thing, but it seems as though LinkedIn is using some questionable tactics to recruit new users. The site currently has 277 million members. It's important to note that you have the option of preventing email contacts from being uploaded in LinkedIn's privacy settings. We've reached out to the company for comment.
Update: Dish provided us with the following statement:
The People You May Know feature leverages contacts from members’ address books that members have chosen to provide to LinkedIn in order to connect with people that matter in their professional life. While the feature provides suggestions on who to connect to, members have complete control over who they choose to send a connection request to.