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The perils of allowing apps unchecked access to your information

Late last month, I got a bit of an unpleasant surprise when I came home to find the front of my house covered in scaffolding. My first thought was that was that something was seriously and suddenly structurally wrong with my house, and the council had put it up as an emergency measure. Having checked the frontage, it was clear there were no big chunks falling off, so it wasn't the council. Maybe it was my neighbours - we'd agreed a few months before to have some work done on our adjoining building fronts, so perhaps it was them, and they'd either forgotten to mention it to me, or they had had a unexpected chance to get scaffolding and do the work at short notice (they run a construction company). But I checked...it wasn't them. Which left the option of the scaffolders being idiots, and confusing my house (on X Road) with the same house (on X Loan), or....someone putting scaffold on for an unknown reason! Luckily, after I went round to see the owners of the house on X Loan, it turned out that it was indeed their house which should have been scaffolded. They got in touch with the scaffolders, and got the scaffold removed to their house...but not until it'd been up on my house for 3 days.

Then, once the scaffold came off, I realised that the corner of one of the original coloured concrete tiles fronting my house had been broken. It's cosmetic damage, but my neighbour had recently had her house valued, and similar damage to one of her tiles had been highlighted as a top issue, because it makes it look like the house isn't properly maintained and hints that there could be other issues with the fabric of the house. So - I wanted this fixed.

I emailed the scaffolding company and I informed them about how upsetting and stressful it had been to not only have someone trespass on my property, block my car in, and worry me about the safety of my home, but I also now had damage to the building that would affect the value of the house. I asked them to put right the damage they had done. Days went by with no response, then finally they emailed me back and asked me to give them a time and date that was suitable for me to meet and let them assess the damage. However, when I went home at the end of that day (not having been able to reply as I had been in a training course all day), they had been to my house and completely replaced the tile...without my permission. I actually had the broken piece of the original tile which should have been fixed back on rather than a new one being put on, and the new tile is thinner, smaller and a different shade, but never mind, it's done now, and out of my hands.

At no point did they properly apologise for the stress and upset, the tone of the email wasn't particularly professional (they wanted to arrange to come and "inspect the claimed damage", which implied they didn't believe me), and they went ahead and did a repair on my property without my agreement or permission beforehand. Awful customer service, an epically annoying and frustrating issue for me to have to deal with when it was nothing to do with me, but for me, the issue was done and dusted.

So, this week, I was surprised, to say the least, when I got a connection invite for LinkedIn...from the office manager of the scaffolding company! I couldn't believe that a representative from a company that I regarded as entirely unprofessional (they can't even get an address right, and they damage property they don't even have a right to be on, and walk away from it) would actually want to connect with me on a professional network! I burst out laughing at the cheek of it...then I tried to figure out why on earth this had happened - I couldn't imagine they wanted anything more to do with me, just as I wanted nothing more to do with them!

They'd asked to connect with me via my personal email, which I had used to contact them about the scaffolding issues. I use a different, professional email address for LinkedIn, so what this email invite was actually offering was to let me, via my personal email, connect with this person by joining LinkedIn. The person at the scaffolding company hadn't actually gone onto LinkedIn, looked around, found my profile, and decided to ask to connect with me.

What must have happened is that they'd allowed LinkedIn to do its "oh, let us import your email contacts and you can connect to loads more people" thing, and LinkedIn had then duly pulled in all their contacts, and sent out connection invites to any email addresses which didn't already exist in their databases as registered with LinkedIn.This included my personal email, which was in their contacts because I'd complained, not because I was a customer, or a professional connection. I can't imagine that the scaffolding company person would actually have actively decided to ask someone that had been on the receiving end of bad service from them, to become a professional contact on LinkedIn. Some people suggested I could give them a bad recommendation, or endorse them for bad skills, but that's not what LinkedIn is set up for, and not something I'd be happy to do. The easiest option was to delete the connection request, and tell LinkedIn that I didn't want any further contact via that email account.

So that was my LinkedIn entertainment! However, this prompt to look at the workings of LinkedIn does show why it's important to understand what certain apps like LinkedIn are going to do with your email contacts, when they offer to make your life easier by importing them for you. You do have to be totally confident that those contacts are all contacts for GOOD reasons, rather than being in there because they're because they're unhappy with you, as that could lead to even further damage to your professional reputation! As for me, I always play it safe and assume that if people want to be on a network, they will be, and try to never let apps access my address book.


Comments

Dennis North said…
This may just help http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/03/a-review-of-android-for-work-dual-persona-support-comes-to-android/

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