One of the most powerful, and least used, pages on LinkedIn is the Privacy & Setting section. Privacy is a complex topic, and as a concept it’s in a lot of flux right now. No matter what your personal approach to the information you share with the world at large, though, the ability to navigate the various privacy settings online is important.
On LinkedIn there are a number of ways that you can control how and what you share. Ultimately, what you decide to share and what you decide to keep private is largely dependent on your comfort level and on your goals for using LinkedIn.
Focus on finding a balance between your privacy and security and being open to opportunity and connections. Networking, and by extension LinkedIn, works because it fosters new relationships. You can’t do that if you don’t share information. That would be like going to a networking event or conference and standing in the corner, refusing to talk to anyone.
As the site and its functionality evolve, the exact methods for controlling what your network and the public can view will change, but there are a few key areas to pay attention to:
1. Who can see your profile and what they can see when they visit?
This is mostly controlled by the Public Profile setting, which allows you to hide part, or all, of your profile from being seen by non-connections. You can also control how your profile Photo is displayed. In specific circumstances it can make sense to block certain information from being seen on your public profile, such as hiding the dates of your education/previous jobs if you are in a job search and are afraid of age discrimination. For the majority of us, however, it makes sense to allow your profile to be viewed by the public. Why spend time optimizing your profile if nobody sees it?
2. Who gets updates on your activity?
Managed by the Activity Broadcasts and Activity Feed settings, this is another area where being open will be helpful in most situations. Managing your activity broadcast can be useful when making a large number of changes to your profile. Turn it off as you are making the changes to prevent each one from popping up on your connections’ newsfeeds. Switch it back on as you make the last change and your connections will be alerted to your shiny new profile. Likewise, limiting the reach of your activity feed doesn’t make a lot of sense if you are trying to share your brand with a wide audience. However, if you feel more comfortable sharing with those close to you, share your activity (defined as actions like status updates, group updates, new connections, etc.) with only your direct connections or immediate network.
3. Who can see if you’ve visited their profile?
The “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature gives you a list of those who have looked at your profile, and likewise the professionals you visit can see if you’ve viewed theirs. If you want to check out others anonymously, change Select What Others See When You’ve Viewed Their Profile from your full information (name, picture, and headline) to an anonymous setting. If you are doing a lot of sales or recruitment prospecting, it can be helpful to go anonymous. However, if you are visiting profiles to get more information then leave it open. It acts as a digital calling card and lets the other person know you care enough to do some pre-meeting research. Also, if your setting is on “anonymous” you won’t be able to see who has viewed your profile. Linkedin likes to keep things fair. Balance your desires to stay hidden with the usefulness of seeing who is checking you out.
4. Who can see your connections?
Normally, only your first-level connections can see who else you are connected to. It’s also possible to Select who can see your connections so that it limits your connections from seeing the rest of your network. It can make sense to hide your connections for confidentiality reasons if you are in a profession where you are connecting with clients or patients, for example if you are an attorney and doctor. Also, some salespeople prefer to hide their connections if they have both competitors and clients in their network. The competitor would still have to go through the salesperson to get the introduction, though – which would be within their rights not to give.
5. Who sees your email address?
Most professionals don’t control their email addresses very well on LinkedIn. It’s important because most have their primary email set to the personal address that they used when they first set up their account (and I’ve seen a lot of old ones like AOL and Hotmail accounts). You can add multiple email addresses to your account in the Add & Manage Email Address section. I would suggest setting your work address as the primary address. This is the only one that the system will send emails to, and it’s the one that will be displayed on your profile (to your first level connections only).