Sharon Machlis

Is your sensitive company info being leaked on LinkedIn?

May 19, 2011 2:16 PM EDT

If LinkedIn isn't on your list of places where confidential information may be leaking onto the public Internet, perhaps it should be.

That was my number-one takeaway from a webinar for journalists led by Sean Campbell, co-owner of the technology competitive intelligence and market research firm Cascade Insights. Number two? There's a load of potentially valuable information available on the social media site for those of us seeking corporate data.

People who are promoting their own professional credentials can share a lot more information than you might expect. Add some LinkedIn search tools to the mix, and a public profile's mention about, say, a $20 million project for Company X can be uncovered by anyone doing some targeted searching for that company.

Campbell cited one employee boasting that he'd closed the "largest consumer device Wi-Fi roaming contract ever" for his prior employer, which was "worth $6M." The value of that contract might be difficult to find otherwise, Campbell noted.

What else could people be revealing in their public LinkedIn profiles/resumes? I decided to browse through listings from some former workers at one of the more secretive of tech companies, Apple, to find out. While I didn't uncover anything earth-shattering, in 20 minutes of search 'n surf I did discover:

  • More than 300,000 iPads were available in sales channels on launch day.
  • Apple shipped 2 million iPads in 60 days.
  • Apple worked with Akamai to create a content delivery network to handle peak traffic spikes.
  • Sometime between 2003 and 2008 Apple had 5 full-time employees moderating discussions and monitoring activity in its online communities.
  • Apple HR had more than 30 internal Web sites and "point solution tools" with 12 developers, designers and database specialists sometimes between 2004 and 2008.

That's nothing to make your hair stand on end if you're responsible for keeping information secure, but I suspect Apple is more vigilant about social media policies among current and former employees than the average company.

I then took a quick browse through profiles of one third-party development firm and discovered user and traffic information for a Web site that wasn't available in that site's own media kit.

What's your takeaway? If your organization has strategic information you'd prefer not to wind up searchable on LinkedIn, you may want to think about a program that monitors LinkedIn profiles mentioning your organization. Or, at least have someone check profiles of partners and former employees from time to time.

And if you're trying to dig up data on partners or competitors, LinkedIn is a potential gold mine.

Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her e-mail address is smachlis@computerworld.com. You can follow her on Twitter Twitter @sharon000, on Facebook or by subscribing to her RSS feeds:
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