I shouldn’t have a LinkedIn account. If you think you are contacting me there, you should know that I’m in a non-mutual relationship with LinkedIn. I “deleted” my account back around 2012 when they had their big, poorly communicated, and majorly mishandled data breach. But, I still get emails from LinkedIn telling me about new contacts for a profile that shouldn’t exist. This would be a minor annoyance except for my long history with Lynda.com.
First, a few background bites for context and to persuade you that I'm not a tinfoil hat nutter about LinkedIn.1
From Evan Schuman:
Before we delve into why this is potentially a big security problem, let’s first examine what LinkedIn, by its own admission, did. About four years ago, it was breached and knew about it. Why, in mid-2016, is LinkedIn only now invalidating those passwords? Because until now, LinkedIn made it optional for users to change their credentials.
Richi Jennings has an excellent link roundup of LinkedIn's continued mismanagement of user data. There are too many quotes in that list so just go read it for yourself. LinkedIn is a terribly irresponsible company with little regard for any person using it.
It's all hypothetical until it's not. Lucian Constantin:
The announcement was posted on a dark market website called TheRealDeal by a user who wants 5 bitcoins, or around $2,200, for the data set that supposedly contains user IDs, email addresses and SHA1 password hashes for 167,370,940 users.
Ok, take a minute and go wash your eyes. I think we can agree that LinkedIn is terrible. Whether it's terrible enough to not use as a "social" professional network is up to you. I think it's bad and definitely bad enough not to leech on my career. But that's not what this is about. It's about Lynda.com.
You see, like many people I loved Lynda.com for training. It has excellent diversity of content and provides real value. I've enjoyed training for professional uses as well as personal projects. I also loved Lynda.com because it supported podcasting. It felt personal. All of my favorite hosts did their weekly ad-reads about Lynda as if it was a friend of theirs. Often it sounded like they loved Lynda like I loved Lynda and that made me want to continue to use the service. Then the people I trusted at Lynda sold it to LinkedIn and almost no one on any podcasts mentioned it. They just stopped talking about it.
This gets to a mental and moral struggle I have with myself over podcast ad reads. They are crafted to sound personal. That's the value to the advertiser. Sometimes they are personal. A good salesperson actually believes what they say. They also try to sell things they can endorse.
That's an important word. "Endorse" is exactly how podcast ad-reads feel to me as a listener. It's not just a commercial. Don't you feel even a little grossed out by those old cigarette ads with baseball players or santa saying how great smoking is? How would you feel now if you saw a new ad like that?
Back to LinkedIn and Lynda.
Lynda.com may not have been fully devoured by the LinkedIn monster yet, but it's corrupted. Recently Lynda released an iOS update that crashes on launch. Not great. If you go to request support through Lynda.com you are greeted with a EULA that requires you to forever associate your Lynda.com account with a LinkedIn account if you want support.
Think about that. You must join a social network to receive support for a service you pay for. That's the LinkedIn way.
Recently, Lynda has dipped some toes back in the Podcast advertising water. The ads don't mention LinkedIn. They are scripted endorsements for the LinkedIn front door. How should I feel otherwise? I doubt we'd have the diversity of podcasts we have now without Lynda.com. They were a big sponsor when the business was just starting. As an early fan of podcasts I am thankful for that. As a current fan of podcasts I hate it.
Why are they all Computerworld articles? Because there's a ton written about the topic. Just pick a source. There's not really two sides to the story. LinkedIn did the wrong things over and over. Plus, I think Computerworld has a good history of writing about this. ↩