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How did Linkedin make this connection?
February 2, 2012 9:31 AM   Subscribe

I was browsing through the "People You May Know" box on Linkedin, and my husband's ex-wife showed up. There is no connection between us - my husband has zero connections on Linkedin (not even to me), and we share no common background. How could this happen?

In addition, I noticed a doctor I used to see in my list, which is also odd to me. I am certain I have never given Linkedin access to my email or my address book. In the case of the ex-wife, we have never lived in the same city; we have nothing in common other than my husband. We have totally different careers, employers, education, and contacts. I have never actually met her. I am not connected to my husband on Linkedin, and neither is she. He has an account, but it contains no information.

I really just want to know how this works: how could Linkedin have figured out the connection between us?
posted by faustessa to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've had this happen to me before and I've decided to chalk it up to confirmation bias. There are a lot of people in that list who I've never met and have no clue why it's asking me if I know them. But if they hit 1/100 times, it seems eerie.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 9:34 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've seen similar oddities--personally, I think the algorithm takes into account who has searched for you or for people you've visited. So if hubby searched for ex, or ex searched for hubby and you visited hubby, then it starts to tie you together.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:34 AM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am certain I have never given Linkedin access to my email or my address book.

But has your husband? Presumably you would both be in his address book.
posted by grouse at 9:35 AM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


I get this a lot as well; I have the feeling that LinkedIn is somehow connected to Facebook, at least to the extent that someone else your husband may be tangentially connected to may have given Linkedin his permission to access his Facebook page -- and Linkedin is reading THAT guy's facebook info and doing a cross-check of "okay, these people are connected to this guy on Facebook, maybe we can ask if they want to be connected via Linkedin as well."

Or it does a search of who is in your husband's first and second degree of separation, sees if anyone of them have a lot of the same people on their own second-degree connection list, and suggests those people to each other.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on February 2, 2012


Possibly the ex-wife and/or doctor had your email in their address book, and gave LinkedIn access to it?
posted by Roommate at 9:38 AM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've had this happen to me before and I've decided to chalk it up to confirmation bias. There are a lot of people in that list who I've never met and have no clue why it's asking me if I know them. But if they hit 1/100 times, it seems eerie.

This is true, I think, but misses the point. Odds are that LinkedIn's recommendations aren't just random.

One thought that comes to mind is, as Roommate notes, that she has given linkedin some sort of way to know you're connected. The other is that maybe linkedin has metrics on what it looks like when someone knows someone else but doesn't want to add them. For example, maybe visiting the same person's profile two or three times over a week is enough to trigger it?

Or there's also another option: you guys might have a lot of similar 2nd or 3rd level connections.
posted by toomuchpete at 9:42 AM on February 2, 2012


As far as I understand it, there are a few ways this could happen:

Someone you are connected to is connected to someone who is connected to your husband's ex-wife, or are connected to someone who is connected to your husband's ex wife. Our circles are smaller than you know. If this is the case, you are probably connected to someone you met through your husband who is tangentially connected to his ex wife.

There can also be connections to other social media platforms (like Facebook as mentioned above, see: open graph) that mine friend connections and carry them across. Those recommendations are coming from social connection data somewhere -- you just don't know where the connection was made.
posted by Kimberly at 9:44 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I get this, too. Really odd connections that get me wondering how LinkedIn, Gmail, facebook, etc talk to each other. My personal life and my work life cross over on LinkedIn in ways that should make me paranoid.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:45 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lots of websites read your browsing history for other websites and then use available apis, etc., to find recommendations. Here is an article on lifehacker for those who may not know much about cookies, etc--it's about facebook but almost certainly applies to other websites.
posted by shownomercy at 9:46 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Linkedin knows who looks at your profile and who you look at...maybe she Linkedin-stalked you?
posted by radioamy at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


But has your husband? Presumably you would both be in his address book.

Definitely not. He is very much against granting address book access to any site. Also, I don't think she's in his address book. They are not in touch and haven't been in touch for years.

Possibly the ex-wife and/or doctor had your email in their address book, and gave LinkedIn access to it?

This is probably the most likely possibility. I have emailed with the doctor before. But I have never corresponded with the ex, so I'm not certain at all that she'd have my address.

Thanks for all the answers - it's interesting to know how many factors are involved in the connection making process. I guess I was being literal thinking it was only about official connections you'd made.
posted by faustessa at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2012


Cookies.
posted by uncannyslacks at 10:19 AM on February 2, 2012


Oh quick question.

Do you and your husband live in the same house as he lived with his ex-wife?

Recently linkedin seems to be recommended people that are in my same physical address.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:33 AM on February 2, 2012


in my same physical address. Office Address....
posted by bitdamaged at 10:33 AM on February 2, 2012


If he's in her address book, and she gave them address book access, that would probably explain it, presuming you and he share the same geographical address. As bitdamaged says, it seems pretty likely that they're making some of these recommendations based on physical location.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:09 AM on February 2, 2012


The link to the ex-wife doesn't have to be through your husband. You can't think of any mutual friends that might have corresponded with both of you? How about a relative on your husband's side? Maybe a cousin or brother who at one time sent even an eGreeting to both of you?
posted by sbutler at 11:16 AM on February 2, 2012


I've wondered about this as well. LinkedIn doesn't have access to my contacts list (although it keeps asking) and I've never used my Facebook account. Many of the suggested connections are 2nd or 3rd order contacts, or may have been searched by people to whom I am connected. This all makes some sense.

But LinkedIn also suggests I might know and want to connect with people who happen to be in the same freecycle group, folks I interacted with through some political activity years ago, my husband (whose last name is different from my own and has never done anything with his LinkedIn account even before he retired five years ago), my sister-in-law (whose last name is different from my husband's), my sister (whose last name is different from mine), and my husband's daughter (whose last name is the same as my husband's, but it's a pretty common name). But my other sister and relatives whose last name is the same rare name as my own have never shown up on the list of "people you may know". I have never searched for any of these people through LinkedIn.
posted by DrGail at 11:21 AM on February 2, 2012


I had a similar experience recently with Twitter. Opened a new Twitter account under a pseudonym, always deny access to my address books, don't have any previous social networking accounts anywhere, yet Twitter immediately suggested a bunch of people I know tangentally as people to follow. It is unnerving, and I'm glad you asked this question.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:22 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somewhat tangential, but Facebook is constantly wanting me to be friends with jessamyn. We have no mutual friends and I don't think I have told Facebook about Metafilter, or vice versa. Spooky!
posted by johngumbo at 1:43 PM on February 2, 2012


Do you and your husband live in the same house as he lived with his ex-wife?


Nope, we're on the other side of the country.
posted by faustessa at 2:20 PM on February 2, 2012


It is possible, though, that our physical address would be in her address book.
posted by faustessa at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2012


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