LinkedIn Stalker Concerns Prompt Petition To Add Blocking Feature

SAN ANSELMO, CA - JANUARY 27:  In this photo illustration, the LinkedIn logo is displayed on the screen of a laptop computer
SAN ANSELMO, CA - JANUARY 27: In this photo illustration, the LinkedIn logo is displayed on the screen of a laptop computer on January 27, 2011 in San Anselmo, California. Social networking internet site LinkedIn Corp. filed documents with the U.S. regulators for an initial public offering. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Unwanted contact on most social networking sites is a relatively easy thing to avoid: You block a user and take solace in knowing that the offensive party can't view your profile or contact you again.

But what if someone's targeting you on LinkedIn? There's apparently little you can do, save a court order, without compromising your professional ambitions.

BuzzFeed reported earlier this week that the professional networking site apparently has something of a stalking problem on its hands. Over the last several months, around 5,000 people have signed a petition asking for LinkedIn to add the ability to let a user block individuals from viewing his or her profile.

The woman who started the petition explained on that she was prompted to take action after seeing that a former boss -- a man she said sexually harassed her at a previous job -- was using LinkedIn to keep tabs on her whereabouts.

"I quickly found I could ignore emails, delete voicemails, block Facebook, use privacy settings on Twitter -- yet EVERYDAY I was being looked at on LinkedIn," she wrote.

The woman went on to note that a customer service representative from LinkedIn told her that the only recourse would be to get a court order.

When the Social Times first reported on the petition after it surfaced in April, LinkedIn told the news outlet that there are many granular settings in place within the site that let users restrict their publicly viewable information.

Hani Durzy, LinkedIn's director of communications, reiterated that point to The Huffington Post, explaining by email that users have a variety of privacy options:

First and foremost, members can easily disconnect from anyone [sic] of their connections. We realize that may not be sufficient, so we allow members to customize their public profiles so that only what they want to have show up on search engines appears. We make it possible for members to adjust what appears out to their networks when they take action on LinkedIn -- change their title or employer, share or post interesting content, etc. We let them limit who can see their photo if they have one on their profile. We let them control what people in their network can see on their profile. And we allow them to limit who can see their connections. All of these can be used to effectively minimize unwanted connections.

The trouble, some have pointed out, is that making one's personal information available to people outside a limited network of people is essentially the point of the site.

As one woman put it in a LinkedIn community forum dedicated to the question of stalkers: "No I don't want to set my whole profile to private, why should I block other potential professional connections to be able to find me?"

While it's unclear how common stalking behavior is on LinkedIn, the topic of unwanted sexual attention on the site is an issue that's become more talked about in recent months.

In March, Forbes raised the issue of whether LinkedIn was the new hotbed for harassment, pointing out that there's even a Tumblr called, which is dedicated to showcasing inappropriate messages sent via LinkedIn.

And just last week, Jezebel featured a decidedly unprofessional LinkedIn message from a man who asked one user what she does "apart from looking good" and went on to suggest that no matter his age or the distance between them, the two could have a spark that might last forever.