By Ed Han
One of the nice things about social media is it can't be beat for letting people know what you are doing. By default, LinkedIn is set to broadcast mode.
But this isn't always desirable -- sometimes discretion is the better part of valor and of job search. And that's when you need to use "stealth mode."
By "stealth mode," I am referring to engaging in activity on LinkedIn which is not broadcast to everyone in your network.
There are many reasons you might wish to engage LinkedIn stealthily:
Whatever the reason, if you want privacy, you can accomplish it through the Settings page.
Although tricky to find, managing the LinkedIn Privacy Controls and Settings page is critical in enhancing your use of the world's biggest professional networking site.
The first step is to turn off the notifications that LinkedIn sends to everyone when you make a change in your profile, add a new connection, join a group, participate in a group discussion, or in fact anything at all.
If you're adding recruiters, colleagues may form conclusions about that activity, rightly or wrongly. Moreover, each week, everyone in your network receives an email digest of changes to the profiles of people with whom they are connected, and this includes you.
If you go to your Profile, over to the right and just below the Profile Strength graphic, you'll see a slider switch with the label "Notify your network?" By default, this is set to "Yes." Selecting "No" means that LinkedIn won't do that.
That part was easy—but now it's time to talk about other aspects of maintaining your privacy while on LinkedIn. This is accomplished through the Privacy & Settings page.
The image above is the upper right section of every LinkedIn screen. Hover your cursor over the profile picture at the right end to produce a menu as depicted below then select Privacy & Settings from the drop-down menu.
Selecting that option will yield the following page. Take note the 4 tab structure running vertically down the lower left part of the screen, with the tabs labeled:
Of these, the Profile and Account tabs are the ones of interest.
The left column, labeled Privacy Controls, addresses more techniques for being stealthy.
Although this has already been addressed, this is included for the sake of completeness. LinkedIn provides multiple ways to accomplish certain tasks, and this is one of them.
You can choose from "Everyone," "Your network," "Your connections," and "Only you."
"Your network" refers to your first, second and third degree connections, whereas "Your connections" includes only those with whom an invitation to connect was sent and accepted (first degree connections).
When you view another LinkedIn user's profile, you can choose to continue providing abstract information such as industry and location (the default), entirely anonymous, or go with full disclosure, providing your name, headline and profile picture.
The last option also enables Profile Stats, which shows who's viewed your profile over a certain time frame: as long as a month to within the current day. If you choose full disclosure but later change your mind, this will disable Profile Stats.
Some LinkedIn members really like Profile Stats, while others find it not meaningful.
As with Profile Stats, you can choose to disable this function at the expense of not seeing how your profile views relate to those of others in your network.
For privacy reasons, you may not wish to do so.
There are few questions about LinkedIn that are more contentious.
By default, if you view your connection's profile, you can see who their connections are, so this section is where you can choose to change it. If you prefer to keep this to yourself, this is the way in which to do so.
There are some professionals, including many recruiters, who choose not to share this information with their network.
The choices here are everyone or your network. If you are concerned about your privacy and wish to keep control over the visibility of your LinkedIn activity, this is the setting for you.
This control brings you to an option in which you can change/add a profile picture, but it also lets you determine who can see it.
When you look at (almost) any LinkedIn profile, a small box appears in the right margin with this label, so you can see others whose profiles are similar. By default this is selected but you can change it here.
But if you've done this to someone in error, this is how to change it. Note that you will need to invite that person to connect again, and give any Endorsements or Recommendations again.
On this tab, LinkedIn offers a few controls relating to your account and what is displayed to and by you as you roam the site. There are only a few options that relate to your privacy, and only those will be addressed below.
This is another way to access the visibility of your profile picture. As you can see, there are several options for accomplishing some tasks on LinkedIn.
This setting has 2 elements. Both are generally geared towards uses who are knowledgeable and concerned with their online security.
Although LinkedIn does use HTTPS for certain parts of the site, such as anything involving payments or features only available to premium accounts, the entire LinkedIn site is not secure.
This setting requires using this more secure process anywhere on the site. This helps protect your online experience, but certain third-party applications that tie into LinkedIn may not work well using HTTPS.
Another, considerably more secure means of connecting to a website, two-step verification requires use of a mobile phone or other device capable of receiving SMS messages.
Every time you connect to the site from a device not already familiar to LinkedIn, you will be sent a text with a code used to complete logging in. If you do not wish to receive SMS messages periodically, this is not the solution for you.
The Settings page is home to a valuable toolkit for any LinkedIn member who desires privacy about how they make use of the site. Use these steps to protect yourself.
Ed Han is a recruiter and wordsmith and social media fanatic. As a veteran of several industries, including publishing, financial services and fashion, Ed helps facilitate a job search group in Princeton NJ and has served as the online community manager for the regional HR networking group Whine & Dine. Connect with Ed on Twitter @ed_han, and circle him on GooglePlus where you will often find that Ed has posted a "LinkedIn tip of the day."