LinkedIn added the option to restrict downloading of emails by their connections. LinkedIn does not generally allow profile downloading or CRM synching except for permissioned connections. Users now have the option to permit connections to view their emails but block them from downloading emails. By default, emails are not downloadable unless users change their settings to permit downloads.
While the change is pro-privacy and consistent with GDPR, TechCrunch took a negative view of the new setting.
A win for privacy on LinkedIn could be a big loss for businesses, recruiters and anyone else expecting to be able to export the email addresses of their connections.…[The new option] could prevent some spam, and protect users who didn’t realize anyone who they’re connected to could download their email address into a giant spreadsheet. But the launch of this new setting without warning or even a formal announcement could piss off users who’d invested tons of time into the professional networking site in hopes of contacting their connections outside of it…
On a social network like Facebook, barring email exports makes more sense. But on LinkedIn’s professional network, where people are purposefully connecting with those they don’t know, and where exporting has always been allowed, making the change silently seems surreptitious. Perhaps LinkedIn didn’t want to bring attention to the fact it was allowing your email address to be slurped up by anyone you’re connected with, given the current media climate of intense scrutiny regarding privacy in social tech. But trying to hide a change that’s massively impactful to businesses that rely on LinkedIn could erode the trust of its core users.
Josh Constine, TechCrunch
TechCrunch overstates the loss. Member control their data, not LinkedIn or LinkedIn connections. Second, there are multiple ways to reach users from within LinkedIn including InMail, messaging, and PointDrive. Unless the email is blocked on the profile, connections still have access to emails from within LinkedIn. Finally, most emails in LinkedIn are personal emails, not business emails (an issue they should address by allowing both and setting privacy and messaging rules around multiple emails), so reaching out to individuals on their emails only makes sense for friends, family, and recruiters on LinkedIn, not businesspeople networking with colleagues and clients.
While LinkedIn wasn’t transparent about the privacy change, it enhanced the privacy of its members. As such, looking for nefarious reasons for the enhancement is a reach.