An interesting post in Corporate Counsel.com describes a dismissed lawsuit plaintiffs brought against LinkedIn. Plaintiffs claimed LinkedIn’s search function allowed potential employers to see past jobs and references, and in plaintiffs’ case, discover information that reflected negatively on them. The suit was thrown out, as the judge ruled that LinkedIn serves only as an information gathering service, and not akin to a consumer report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as claimed by the plaintiffs.
I’ll leave it to the attorneys to comment on this ruling, one way or the other. What interests me is that while the courts (at least so far), don’t deem LinkedIn to be a “consumer report”, identity thieves certainly do, and will continue to do so, as long as LinkedIn members continue to post certain personal information. Birthdays, for example provide fraudsters with one more piece of personally identifiable (PII) information that, in combination with others, can be used to steal one’s identity. Posting a birthdate — even if only the month and the day — might seem innocuous enough. After all, it does provide your network to engage you in another way. But if your profile lists your dates of employment (if not when you graduated), identity thieves will do the math and find the year you were born.
Fraudsters have several options once they have all of the information they need: They could sell your information to other identity thieves; open credit cards in your name or access your bank accounts; or socially engineer their way into your company or organization for a mother lode of sensitive corporate and consumer information (e.g. IP, trade secrets, customer account information, etc.).
So far, we’re only talking about personal information on LinkedIn, one of the most professional social networking sites out there. What information are you divulging on Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Snapchat? We all have information out there on the web. My hope is that this will provide an impetus to review your LinkedIn profile and your other social network accounts to help reduce your risk of identity theft.