Public sector employee wants to maintain privacy but also use Linkedin
January 7, 2014 9:35 AM   Subscribe

I am a public sector employee, and I would like to stay in touch with former private sector colleagues via Linkedin. But I don't want the public-at-large to be able to find me easily.

I have a Linkedin profile. I used to work in the private sector for many years, and would like to keep in touch with my colleagues via Linkedin.

Now I work in the public sector. I work for a local government agency, and I work directly with the public. For comparative and hypothetical purposes, let's say that I am an IRS agent who conducts audits.

As you can imagine, from time to time I might have interactions with a citizen where the citizen is unhappy with the outcome of our discussion. Also, from time to time my position requires me to appear in court on behalf of my agency.

I would prefer that if a citizen or attorney searches for me on Linkedin, when they find my profile it would not be readily apparent that I am the exact person they are searching for. My name is fairly common, and a search turns up five or six people with my name in my local metro area.

I'm sure there are other professions that have similar privacy concerns. Other than the obvious - don't put your information on the internet - what are some best practices in terms of maintaining some privacy, while still participating in social media? Do I make up a title, like "consultant"?

I don't anticipate that I will move back to the private sector, but these days you never know. I would like to keep my network current and demonstrate that I am still learning and growing professionally.

Finally, let me address the idea of using Facebook to stay in touch - I have a firm personal policy that I don't add work colleagues to my personal Facebook account, and I don't add personal friends that I have never worked with to my Linkedin account. It's important to me to keep my personal life and my professional life separate. If I don't the lines become too blurry for me.
posted by vignettist to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can leave your current position off of your profile, just putting a vague note there.

For example:

Current Position: Analyst in the public sector.

Previous Position: Analyst at XYZ Corporation.

The folks who know you professionally will be able to connect and the other folks will probably not have an idea who you are.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:40 AM on January 7, 2014

Linked-in displays a "public profile" which is what shows up in public search results. One of the options is to make the public profile visible to "no one." That's probably the option you're looking for. You can also severely limit what is displayed in your public profile - down to the basics of "Name, industry, location, number of recommendations" - your current position can be hidden.
posted by muddgirl at 9:42 AM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

LinkedIn allows you to distinguish what is on your "public profile" (accessible from search engines like Google) versus what connections see. You can even completely hide your public profile if that helps you out. In particular, you can hide your current employer.

That said, I'm not familiar of any way to limit what second and third LinkedIn connections see of your profile other than that third connections only see your last initial rather than last name. Although limiting visibility of your public profile goes pretty far for what you want, if the unhappy citizen happens to be a "friend of a friend", they will still get visibility into your LinkedIn profile.
posted by saeculorum at 9:43 AM on January 7, 2014

Does your organization/ministry/department have a policy on whether you appear on social media (including Linked In) as a government employee?

Otherwise seconding muddgirl's advice of using the privacy settings to restrict searches from the public.
posted by Kurichina at 9:44 AM on January 7, 2014

I believe you can make your LI profile anonymous. I presume when you reach out to connect with somebody that it reveals who you are, leaving you in total control. However, it may reveal your identity to 2nd and 3rd level connections no matter what. You might want to set up a fake account, connect with your real account, and play around with the privacy settings on the fake account to see if you can get them as limited as you would like.
posted by COD at 9:52 AM on January 7, 2014

Honestly, LinkedIn has privacy features, but I have found that people are still able to find me and read my profile when I thought I had limited who could see it. I have triple checked the privacy settings and restricted what people could see about me, and I've still had people tell me they were able to just find me and see my entire profile. Believe me, I am very cautious about privacy and I honestly don't trust LinkedIn's privacy features at all. It's not really clear how they work or what exceptions there are. Can everyone see my profile? Only people with a connection in common? Only people who are recommended in the mysterious "people you may know" feature? Only people with LinkedIn accounts? Not sure. But it's pretty creepy. So in general, I find you really can't make your profile completely private. You will probably be able to prevent some randos from seeing it, but not always. And lucky me, because apparently my job is of some public interest, my work bio is now on another website devoted to this public interest. They got it from LinkedIn somehow.

And before people tell me I'm wrong, I've also directly tested LinkedIn's profile privacy feature with people. This bothered me: My profile was as private as I could make it, but my friend could see my entire profile -- we think maybe because we had emailed each other, even though we weren't connections, had zero connections in common and work in different industries. How many random people have I emailed for some reason? Or have emailed me? I contacted LinkedIn about this and they of course ignored me. But who knows if it was the email. Another guy who I hadn't emailed told me he was reading my LinkedIn with full work history while we spoke on the phone (this was for a job). We had connections in common, but I didn't know the guy.

Some privacy features do work as advertised without confusion, i.e. if I read someone else's profile, they won't know I visited their page because I set that privacy setting to hide my page visits. I've tested this and it works.

I'll also say that LinkedIn is not a good way to keep up with colleagues. Once in a while I see people talking on LinkedIn via status updates, but that's rare. I usually look at those people and think, "Really?" Generally LinkedIn is this page that sits there and tells everyone your work history. You don't interact with other people the way you do on, say, Facebook or Twitter. It's just not very social. I know people with public jobs, like journalists, who have a personal Facebook and a professional/work one. On LinkedIn, I can see what people are doing career-wise (as long as they keep it updated) and they can see what I'm doing, but that's about it. Once there was a job opening and the guy hiring had already connected to me on LinkedIn, so it helped me reach out to him for the job very easily. But that's the only case where I used it for a job. He had a premium account so he messaged me.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:56 AM on January 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think you can have a meaningful profile under your real name on social media, given your conditions. Linked In is the only one I use, but I don't have the profile you do. I still get bothered through it from time to time. Friends and relatives with significant public-facing roles (public health, law enforcement) have had to abandon all social media entirely though. There doesn't seem to be a reasonable middle ground for private activity if your career has a formal and public role.
posted by bonehead at 9:01 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going for a log (instead of my pic) and joining groups instead of individuals... don't know if that's any help?
posted by tanktop at 4:35 AM on January 8, 2014

logo - no logs involved :-s
posted by tanktop at 4:35 AM on January 8, 2014

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