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TheStreet Open House

Stalked on LinkedIn: Victims Complain They Can't Block Abusers

By Erik Sherman

LinkedIn is a great place to find a job, but as some users have learned, it can also be a great place to be found -- by a stalker. One, who asked to be identified only as Anna R., claims that a former boss who sexually assaulted her has used LinkedIn to stalk her, as BuzzFeed reported. Unfortunately, given the structure of LinkedIn, completely blocking a single person is virtually impossible.

Now some users are asking LinkedIn to improve blocking capabilities so that people don't have to feel the virtual breath of someone over their shoulder. A Change.org petition already has more than 5,700 signers.

Here's how Anna R. describes the alleged problem on the petition page:

I once was a victim of a sexual assault in the workplace. Being young, it was quite a traumatizing experience for me. Because of this incident, I was forced to leave my position and I never looked back, hoping to leave it behind me for good. Unfortunately, the story was only just beginning. It was the start of a stalking -- something I could have never prepared myself for. E-mails, voicemails; some threatening, some flirty, day after day. I quickly found I could ignore emails, delete voicemails, block Facebook, use privacy settings on Twitter -- yet EVERYDAY I was being looked at on LinkedIn. It really started hitting close to home when he started researching my new connections to see where they where located; if they were in a different area in which I worked for him, he would e-mail me to see if I moved and what I was doing. Little things like that started getting me really scared.

The problem that LinkedIn poses for people being stalked is the perceived lack of flexibility in blocking others. If the person has a valid LinkedIn profile, then he or she has the same access that you grant to all who aren't connected to you. Lock that person out and you also lock out potential employers because it is, after all, a professional networking site. Block everyone and you lose much of the benefit.

Others have claimed stalking problems as well. One, Lucy Roberts in England had dated a man for 8 months in 2012. The man wouldn't desist when she had broken up with him, so he began telephoning and texting her and then going to her house. She had a harassment notice, roughly the equivalent of a protective order in the U.S., served, which meant he as not supposed to contact her.

"The only other means of notifying me of his existence and to say 'Here I am', 'Thinking of you,' or whatever he is trying to achieve is to look me up on LinkedIn where he knows I can see that he has viewed me," Roberts says. "There is no option to block him on this site like I have done with Twitter and Facebook so I phoned the police to see if this can be classed as stalking and they agreed as it made me feel uncomfortable." Not only has he looked up her profile at least twice a week, but he just tried to connect on LinkedIn with her boss.

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