You should change these LinkedIn privacy settings now

The professional network can be an over-sharer. Here’s how to limit the personal information it exposes.

Help Desk Privacy Reset Guide - LinkedIn
Help Desk Privacy Reset Guide - LinkedIn (The Washington Post illustration; iStock; LinkedIn)

You might not think of LinkedIn as a privacy risk, especially compared to the social networks that make lots of headlines for being naughty. LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, is where you share your resume with the world — information many members want to be visible, especially if they’re hunting for a job.

But using LinkedIn comes with some exposure that may not be so obvious. For one: salespeople, crooks or stalkers could try to use the details you reveal on LinkedIn to target you with aggressive pitches, trick you into targeted phishing attacks or otherwise gain your confidence. You could also inadvertently leave breadcrumbs that suggest to your current employer that you’re on the hunt for a new job.

Also, some of LinkedIn’s default settings make you less anonymous than other social networks. One that often shocks people: If you don’t adjust your visibility settings, other members can know when you’ve been looking at their profiles. That means you could be exposed just by Googling someone and clicking on their LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn has dozens of data, privacy and advertising settings you can control. Where to start? This guide takes you through the most important ones.

If you do only one thing

Make yourself anonymous while looking at other people’s profiles

By default, every time you view someone’s LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn tells them you were there.

Make your visits more anonymous by adjusting your “profile viewing” settings to “private mode” at this link, or in the app by tapping on your profile photo → View Profile Settings → Visibility → Profile viewing options.

One thing to note: Once you go private, you won’t be able to know who looked at your profile, either — unless you pay for a premium LinkedIn subscription.

If you’re still concerned about privacy

Stop LinkedIn from letting connections know it’s your birthday

If you’ve ever gotten unexpected LinkedIn birthday greetings from old colleagues or people you’ve met at conferences, it could be because the professional network told your connections it’s your birthday.

If you find this creepy, the easiest way to stop it is to simply delete your birthday information from LinkedIn — it’s not actually required to use the service. This is most easily done on the web. Go to the Me icon at the top → View Profile → Contact info (in your introduction section) → Edit (the pencil icon) → Birthday and then remove the month and day you see there.

Stop LinkedIn from syncing your contacts

At some point, you may have granted LinkedIn ongoing permission to copy your contacts lists from your phone, Gmail, Outlook or other sources. LinkedIn uses that data to suggest connections and show you updates about your contacts, among other things. But your phone’s contacts list probably isn’t just for work — it may be filled with family, friends or even enemies you don’t want to see on LinkedIn.

To turn off syncing your contacts use this link on the web and tap “Remove all.” Or in the app by tapping on your profile photo → View Profile Settings → Account preferences → Sync contacts or in the app by tapping on your profile photo → View Profile Settings → and make sure it is switched to “Off.”

Stop LinkedIn from broadcasting your profile updates

When you make an edit to your profile, LinkedIn could flag the change to your connections — including your current colleagues or boss, who might wonder why you’re so busy updating your profile.

Turn off the oversharing by going to this link, or in the app by tapping on your profile photo → View Profile Settings → Visibility → Share profile updates with your network → and make sure “Share key profile updates” is set to off. Doing this could mean your connections will miss an update like a promotion — but you could always just turn this back on temporarily for a change you do want to broadcast.

If you want to be extra cautious

Scale back your public profile

Your basic LinkedIn profile is visible to the public and searchable on Google. Data shared by default could include your first and last name, your number of connections, your posts on LinkedIn and details of your current and past work experience.

It’s easiest to scale back this information on the web. Go to this link, and find the Edit Visibility section on the right side. You can turn off your public visibility altogether with the main toggle, or limit public access to specific pieces of information such as your profile photo and education by toggling those sections to off.

Stop letting LinkedIn use your personal information for ads

LinkedIn targets ads at you based on the personal data you enter — and can even use your data to target ads you see outside of LinkedIn.

Scale back how it uses your data with this link on the web, or in the app by tapping on your profile photo → View Profile Settings → Advertising Data. There, switch most of the choices to “Off” including Profile data for personalizing ads, Interest Categories, Connections, Locations, and down toward the bottom Ads outside of LinkedIn.