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What's next for the Chrome extension that hacked LinkedIn profiles?

Users could uncover email addresses associated with accounts even if they were not connected.

A Chrome/Firefox browser extension caused some consternation at LinkedIn because of a feature that would have let users "hack in" to profiles, even if you are not connected with that person.

Sell Hack is available as a free extension for the Chrome and Firefox browsers (but not IE) and, once installed, will pop up a "hack in" button on LinkedIn profiles. The product is currently in beta testing now and will work on other social media.

When word got out about Sell Hack, LinkedIn had the obvious reaction: it sent a cease-and-desist letter to Sell Hack, which has since disabled the plug-in. "We are building a better product that does not conflict with LinkedIn's terms of service," Sell Hack said on its blog.

The company had pitched Sell Hack as a tool for marketing professionals and claims all of this is legal. "The data we process is all publicly available. We just do the heavy lifting and complicated computing to save you time. We aren't doing anything malicious to a social website," it says on the company site.

LinkedIn has insisted that all members who have downloaded Sell Hack should immediately uninstall the extension as well as send a request to the developers asking them to remove their data.

For now, the LinkedIn controversy is over, but Sell Hack remains, as does the question of what this will be used for in the future. If personal data is that easily withdrawn from social media sites, then are all privacy settings a waste of time? And if so, will anyone stay with said sites knowing a simple browser plug-in can extract their personal information?

This will definitely be a challenge for social media sites going forward.

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