The problem with social media services is that they have to generate revenue and the opportunities to do so are few and far between. As a consequence they go down dark paths in an attempt to become as intimate with you as possible to satisfy advertisers' cravings for better targeting.
We have seen this kind of tactic played out time and time again. For example, Facebook recently changed its policy on public posting by teens. Interestingly Piper Jaffray's 26th Semi-Annual "Taking Stock with Teens" Market Research Project released at the beginning of October found that "the popularity of Facebook is waning among teens with 23% citing it as the most important, down from 33% six months ago and 42% a year ago" so Facebook's move is obviously part of shoring up the company's market "reach."
Then you have the interesting problem of social networks trying to manage their relevance by using restrictions that are not always logical as I discussed in a recent blog post Restricted by LinkedIn for doing what they wanted me to do.
But if you thought what Facebook did with teens was pushing the boundaries then what LinkedIn has proposed may well set your hair on fire ...
LinkedIn has just announced a new service called Intro which they introduced in a self-congratulatory blog post titled LinkedIn Intro: Doing the Impossible on iOS which explains:
[Intro] shows you LinkedIn profiles, right inside the native iPhone mail client. That's right: we have extended Apple's built-in iOS Mail app, a feat that many people consider to be impossible. This post is a short summary of how Intro works, and some of the ways we bent technology to our will.
The post goes into some technical detail explaining what they've done and how it works but let me bottom line it for you: They are asking you to install an app that forces all of your incoming and outgoing email through LinkedIn's servers where they can search and modify it to add LinkedIn content into your messages. As many have pointed out, this is essentially a "man-in-the-middle" attack that has huge implications.
First of all LinkedIn will be able to do anything that they can get away with ... there is no limit to what the service will be able to not only do to your email but deduce from your email ... they will see everything!
Second, you will become exposed in all sorts of ways you may not have thought about. A great post on the Bishop Fox blog covers this very well explaining, in detail, 10 reasons why this technique is not just a bad idea but an extrememly dangerous one as well. One of my favorites is
8. If I were the NSA...
...and I hear everyone's mobile phones were routing their emails through LinkedIn...well I know where I'm having my next birthday party.
LinkedIn's Intro could well be the leading contender for Worst Social Media Service Feature Ever. Forget "doing the impossible", how about doing the incredibly stuipd?