…(and how to prevent it)

Much has been written on the dire consequences of breaching Facebook Terms of Service, the carefree approach of most users highlighted how little attention we pay to the legal bindings of online services, even more when these services are offered free of charge in their basic edition and we simply have to acknowledge we read and agree with their EULAs at registration time.

But how many people read through (or at all!) what is de facto, and obviously de jure, a contract? Only a few if we look at how often you see the LinkedIn User Agreement rules breached in profiles.

While some of these infringements are out of deliberate intention to harm (e.g.: uploading viruses or disrupting the services), some others are not so obvious, as stated by the title of this article, and might cost you the termination of your account:


1)  Including an email address, phone number or similar info in the name field (U.A. 10.B.2 and 10.B.8.C)

One of the most common mistakes, we are so eager to give potential customers a way to get in touch with us to try add such info even there. Too bad this clashes with LinkedIn Inmail business model where direct contact with users you’re not connected with comes for a fee.

There are many ways to address this issue, first of all just fill in properly your profile and it will contain enough info for everybody to find you even outside of LinkedIn, just think of the links section where you usually put your company and eventually your personal blog. Second, you might think of turning LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) if you just aim at amassing the biggest amount of connections, all you have to do is to put a “[LION]” next to your name (this one is permitted).

Last but not least you could invest into upgrading your account, even with the entry-level Business account you activate OpenLink, a service that allows any member to send you a free message without seeing your contact info.


2) Create a user profile for anyone other than a natural person (U.A. 10.B.3)

This is a bit of legalese,  I’ll borrow a proper description from Wikipedia: “In jurisprudence, a natural person is a real human being, as opposed to a legal person, which may be a corporation or state”. As you see you can’t create a LinkedIn user profile for your company, such profiles are meant only for real people. To set up presence of your company on this business network you’ll have to fill in a company profile. Compared to user profiles this category is quite passive and this is the reason some people try to bypass this limitation.


3) Invite people you do not know to join your network (U.A. 10.B.5 and 10.B.8.F)

I don’t have access to official statistics but I can easily guess this is the single most common breach to the User Agreement. LinkedIn has no direct way to verify your real life connections, they rely solely on negative feedback from users you tried to approach, it first issues a warning and after a few of them you’ll be required to enter the private email of every person you’re asking to connect with before invitation is sent, as a mean to verify you do really know him/her.

The safest way is to always contact the user with other means before sending invitation. If you have no way to, please DO NOT settle with the default sentence: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”. While the personal note is labelled as optional, this is true only on the strictly technical side, that is the invitation will ship even without, the user on the other side will still want to know WHO you are, HOW do you know each other, WHERE and WHEN did it happen and WHY do you want to connect, else get ready for the blacklist.


4) Sell, sponsor, or otherwise monetize a LinkedIn Group […] without the express written permission of LinkedIn. (U.A. 10.B.16)

Making a group successful takes a lot of time and engagement, no wonder one would be happy to see some monetary reward for his/her own efforts.

LinkedIn is not barring the opportunity altogether, they simply ask to be involved, quite a reasonable request since they make all of this possible in first instance. You may want to get in touch with LI first and look for a win-win solution.


5) Upload a profile image that is not your likeness or a head-shot photo (U.A. 10.B.6)

Yet another common mistake. The most usual instance is putting a company logo as avatar, some users in creative fields put artistic self-portraits. The only serious violation here IMHO comes from the several escorts baiting for potential customers with rather explicit profile pictures.


Finalwords: it’s unlikely you will see your account terminated straight away for mistakes due to inexperience, first you’ll receive warnings, and then restrictions, suspensions, until you really deserve termination (U.A. 7.B).

This said, you should really abide the aforementioned rules from the start also for netiquette reasons, you don’t want to look unprofessional to your business contacts, don’t you?

Fabrizio Bartoloni (Spoleto, Italy) works in Mobile software consulting and localisation, IT journalism and PR. He writes for Gulli.com (German) and PuntoInformatico (Italian).