You Should Use LinkedIn Privacy Settings. Here's How.

The platform doesn't just help you network; it also monetizes user data

HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JUNE 29: A smart phone with the login screen for the social networking apps LinkedIn is seen on the screen on June 29 2018 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. (Photo by S3studio/Getty Images) GettyImages-988165344

You join LinkedIn to share information with strangers or casual acquaintances, so it may seem like one social service where you don't need to worry about adjusting your privacy settings.

But the company uses your data for more than helping you network. It employs member data for targeted advertising, and it can share that data with Microsoft, its parent company, along with third parties. LinkedIn generates billions of dollars in advertising revenue every year.

More on Digital Privacy

Remember, LinkedIn is a social media site, along the lines of Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. And as with all online services, it's smart to pay attention to privacy and security.

The LinkedIn privacy settings described below can help you control what data the platform shares with other companies, and enhance your security. Additional settings under the Data privacy tab let you control how easy it is for other LinkedIn users to find your information.

We're giving the directions for changing settings within a computer browser; the controls are similar if you're using the LinkedIn mobile app.

Stop Syncing Your Contacts

If you've granted your permission in the past, LinkedIn periodically scans your phone and email contacts to help you find new connections. But the company uses some of that data for targeted advertising as well. LinkedIn also settled a lawsuit in 2015 after it bombarded members' contacts with email inviting them to connect. It’s easy to stop syncing your contacts, and delete any the company has collected.

To stop syncing contacts: Click the “Me” icon near the top right corner > Settings & Privacy > Account preferences > Sync Contacts > Remove All.

Stay Anonymous When You Browse Other Profiles

By default, the "Who's Viewed Your Profile" features lets other users know when you've looked at their LinkedIn page. If you'd rather keep your browsing habits to yourself, you can choose to remain anonymous.

There are two options: The first lets the other person know that someone at your company or with your job description viewed their profile. The second will only tell the other person an "Anyonymous LinkedIn member" took a look.

There's a disincentive, though. If you turn on this privacy setting, you won't be able to see who's been viewing your profile, and it will erase your viewer history.

To stay anonymous as you browse: Click the “Me” icon near the top right corner > Settings & Privacy > Data privacy > Profile viewing options > Select the option of your choice.

Control Who Sees Sensitive Information

There's a variety of information you could add to your LinkedIn account for which you might want to limit access.

For instance, you could be happy keeping the email address they've provided on display, or you many want to restrict that information to direct connections or hide it altogether. The same goes for other details, such as your phone number, list of connections, or even your last name.

LinkedIn provides controls for a number of sensitive details. With some controls you can only choose public or private, but in a few cases you can fine-tune who can see the information. You can also decide whether other users can see when you're logged in.

To limit sensitive information: Click the “Me” icon near the top right corner > Settings & Privacy > Visibility > Select the various options and choose your preferences.

Keep Promos Out of Your Inbox

LinkedIn's advertisers can send promotional content through InMail, the platform's messaging service. You can block those messages while still receiving regular InMail messages—or turn off InMail altogether.

To block sponsored messages: Click the “Me” icon near the top right corner > Settings & Privacy > Communications > Messages > Switch off the toggle under "Allow LinkedIn partners to show you Sponsored Messages."

Keep Your Account Safe From Hackers

Using a strong password is essential, but you can take your security further by turning on multifactor authentication, which the platform calls "two-step verification." With this setting on, LinkedIn will send you a verification code to confirm your identity when someone tries to access your account from an unusual location, device, or browser. You can get codes using text messages, but the safest option is to set up an authentication app.

Turn on MFA: Click the “Me” icon near the top right corner > Settings & Privacy > Account preferences > Two-Step Verification > Turn On > Select your verification method.

Opt-Out of Third-Party Research

LinkedIn lets third-party researchers use data from your account to "research social, economic and workplace trends," according to the platform's privacy policy. But you can opt out of some of this data sharing.

Even if you turn the setting off, de-identified data (which is stripped of personally identifiable information) may still be shared with outside researchers. And there's no way to prevent the company from using your data in an anonymized form on its Talent Insights platform, where LinkedIn sells reports about the workforce.

To limit data-sharing: Click the “Me” icon near the top right corner > Settings & Privacy > Data privacy > How LinkedIn uses your data > Social, economic and workplace research> Switch the toggle off.

Don't Send Your Data to Microsoft

You can connect your LinkedIn and Microsoft accounts, which lets you access LinkedIn information on Microsoft's other apps and services. For example, if you couple the accounts you can see other users' LinkedIn profiles in Outlook and send them invitations.

However, if you connect your accounts, Microsoft may use your profile information, connections to other people, and data about your interests for targeted advertising. And LinkedIn gets access to information from Microsoft, such as your contacts and appointments on your calendar.

If you've connected these accounts in the past and are having second thoughts, you can decouple them.

To disconnect a Microsoft account: Click the “Me” icon near the top right corner > Settings & Privacy > Account preferences > Partners and Services > Microsoft > Remove.

(If you've connected your Twitter account to LinkedIn, you can remove that from this same tab as well.)

Make Ads Less Personal

You can’t opt out of seeing advertisements on LinkedIn, but the platform gives you a number of options for limited targeted ads, the kind based on your personal data.

LinkedIn’s ad settings page offers you more than 20 individual toggles and check boxes to adjust—we managed to disable them all in about 30 seconds. Turning off each one makes for a small privacy boost.

You may want to spend a minute examining each setting, though. The settings affect both advertisements and promoted jobs—so if you turn off all the permissions, you may see fewer relevant jobs being promoted. As an example, you might want to keep seeing promotions tied to companies you follow and your job history, but turn off ads based on demographics.

Turn off targeted ads: Click the “Me” icon near the top right corner > Settings & Privacy > Advertising data > Switch off the options of your choice.

Protecting Your Online Privacy

It doesn't matter if you're on your phone or your laptop, your personal information can leave a digital trail of where you go online. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports' expert Thomas Germain explains to host Jack Rico what to do to protect your online privacy.


Headshot image of Electronics editor Thomas Germain

Thomas Germain

I want to live in a world where consumers take advantage of technology, not the other way around. Access to reliable information is the way to make that happen, and that's why I spend my time chasing it down. When I'm off the clock, you can find me working my way through an ever-growing list of podcasts. Got a tip? Drop me an email ( thomas.germain@consumer.org) or follow me on Twitter ( @ThomasGermain) for my contact info on Signal.