Who’s Viewed My Profile? Who Cares?

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whos_viewed.gifLinkedIn recently added a new feature – Who’s Viewed My Profile. I have to say that this is a feature I’m not really all that crazy about, for a couple of reasons.

For starters, I’m not sure I really want everyone whose profile I view to know it. The fundamental paradigm of the internet is basically anonymous browsing. Sure, if you’re a registered member of a site like Amazon, they will track all of your behavior and try to present you with customized content based on your behavior. But they do not make your browsing available to other members. Book authors can’t see the names of all the Amazon visitors who have browsed their book titles. Why would we expect the paradigm to be different in LinkedIn?

Ryze implemented this feature a couple of years ago to very mixed reaction. The first time I got a public guestbook message from someone saying, “Hi, I saw you dropped by my profile, so I thought I’d come say hello and introduce myself.” What?!? Me visiting your profile is not an invitation for a conversation. If I had wanted to strike up a conversation, I would have!

In one instance (before I turned it off, or before you could turn it off – I don’t recall), I was browsing someone’s profile because a female friend of mine had told me that the person was making inappropriate comments that made her very uncomfortable. The person contacted me after having seen that I browsed their profile — well, you can imagine what an awkward spot that put me in.

Fortunately, LinkedIn had the good sense to allow you to control your visibility to others when browsing profiles:


For some of us, industry and title isn’t exactly anonymous. I show up as “Coauthor, The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online” — hardly anonymous!

You know, if people want to open themselves up for this, that’s fine with me. I just have to wonder how useful it really is. I find that the novelty rares off rather quickly.

Peter Quodling commented rather humorously, but insightfully, on this on LinkedInnovators:

I will bet that in that instant that you saw a senior exec of a VC had
scanned your profile, you are thinking. “He wants to spend lots of
money on me, getting me into an influential role, that’s fantastically
well paid – what can I do to push this to the next level…’

Consider instead:

1. He may have just seen you write something in a forum, and thought “who is this idjit?” (no disrespect to you or anything you may or may not have written – this is an example…)

2. He may have known someone with the same name previously, and is simply trying to track down old friends…

3. He may be just browsing his immediate network… Either out of boredom, or possibly just being “nosy” about what kind of friends his friends have…

4. He may actually not be a president of a VC firm, but has just labelled himself as such to scam business, of course, in this day and age,

5. He is actually looking for someone with your skills, background. If so, just like almost every employer (or prospective employer), he will want to retain some anonymity.. Which begs the question, why is this the nature of the relationship, where they have the problem that they want you to solve, but won’t tell you what it is, or who they are, but want to know every intimate detail of your working career (and in some cases psychometrically test you…)

Hey… if you like this feature, more power to you. Just don’t hold it against those of us who don’t and choose to browse anonymously. And don’t read too much into the fact that someone else has viewed your profile — it doesn’t mean anything more than just that.

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  1. Even from the other side it can take on a different perspective. I did look to see who had looked at my profile. People from another country had looked at mine. I found it really puzzling considering their industry was completely different than mine and from another country. I’m supposing that they were browsing around but, I don’t think that I really need to know this or much less want to. 🙂

  2. Funny, you don’t seem to like this feature, yet your mybloglog widget shows the visitors pictures front an center on your own LinkedIntelligence blog.

  3. Interesting point. For me, there are a couple of key differences:

    1) MyBlogLog only shows MyBlogLog members — people who have opted in to be visible. So the default, for a first-time visitor who hasn’t opted in to MBL is that they’re completely anonymous. On LinkedIn, as I explained in my post, the “semi-anonymous” default state isn’t anonymous for a lot of people, so many people are being “opted in” to that without even their knowledge.

    2) Someone appearing in my MyBlogLog widget has more meaning (to me) than someone viewing my LinkedIn profile. I know that a) they almost certainly have a blog, and b) they have some degree of interest in learning more about LinkedIn. Of course, I don’t sit here and go through all my MBL visitors every day — who has time???

    But on LinkedIn, all that viewing my profile means is that I matched on some keyword in a search (I don’t know what keyword), or my name showed up in the “people you might know” list, or that they liked (or maybe hated) an answer I gave on LinkedIn Answers. I have NO context, and without the context, the fact that they viewed my profile is meaningless — not actionable.

    I keep saying it, but it’s such an important concept to me: Context creates meaning.

    No context means it’s just data, not knowledge, which would be actionable.

  4. Given the amount of annoying fake facebook apps and pages which claim to show you who has viewed your profile, people are keen to see who has been checking them out. I guess it’s only fair, if someone has had a chance to view all the information on your profile, then you should be able to do the same.

  5. I must agree with Julie Senior who said “Given the amount of annoying fake facebook apps and pages which claim to show you who has viewed your profile, people are keen to see who has been checking them out. I guess it’s only fair, if someone has had a chance to view all the information on your profile, then you should be able to do the same.”
    We should also remember that our profile can often be viewed by others and act accordingly.

  6. The ability to see details of someone who has purely browsed your page – even if only for a brief second – is creepy to say the least. Almost puts off social networking in one foul swoop.

  7. I was unaware of this function for a long time. Basically, the lesson here is don’t view any profile unless you are ok with linkedin notifying the user each time you viewed it. You can go anonymous but your browsing history can still somewhat be traced on the “who has viewed this profile” section. Not by name but you can deduce at times. Keep hearing that linkedin is a great way to network but Im beginning to think we’ve all been had.

  8. I think, Who’s Viewed My Profile is helpful for me to track the profile of the LinkedIn users who are viewing my account. I welcome the idea. At t least, I also have the chance to know and see the profiles of the people who are viewing my account.

  9. I had the same concerns when I found out that anyone can see everything I purchased on eBay! There really is no such thing as anonymous browsing anymore. Either Google knows everything you do, or close to it. If you really don’t want people finding our where to go or what sites you visit (or in this case) what profiles you looked at. Don’t go there, plain and simple.

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