Orphaned Data, Ghost Accounts, and their mysteries solved.

Ever look for a friend or colleague on LinkedIn only to find that he as two separate profiles that are each his? He’s got one profile that’s current and an older one from when he had a different job. Ever wonder why he did that?

I’ll tell you why. He didn’t do it on purpose, he did it because he’s short-sighted, forgetful, and doesn’t understand data.

You see, our friend, Joe, (let’s call him Joe) was working for Company ‘A’ when he first created his LinkedIn profile in 2006 and created it with his ‘Joe@companyA.com’ email address. Seems reasonable at first, right? But when Joe got fired, let go, or just changed companies, he also happened to forget his password (probably fired).

Later, Joe gets a new job and wants to update his LinkedIn profile. However, since he forgot his LinkedIn password, he tried to click the ‘forgot password’ link to reset his password. However, clicking that link sends a verification email and instructions on resetting his password to his registered email account—at the company he doesn’t work for anymore. See the problem?

Now Joe has a LinkedIn account that he can’t get to any longer. So, naturally, Joe creates another LinkedIn account reflecting his new job and fancy title. Joe has two LinkedIn accounts now. He has his new one that he just created that he can use to send and receive messages to people who might want to hire him for another job one day. He also his first LinkedIn profile, the one he forgot the password to and can no longer access. That profile also might have people trying to contact him about a cool new job, or a long-lost friend is trying to get in touch with him, but those messages will never get to Joe. They’re going to an orphaned account, a ghost account of someone who will never be able to log into it again. Two accounts for Joe, each with his picture and similar information for all perspective future employers to see, that show how Joe doesn’t know how to manage his own data.

Will Joe remember to add a second, personal email account (like Gmail) to his profile and make that his primary email address? An account that will stay with him after he leave his current job?

Further yet, will Joe turn on 2FA (two factor authentication) on his LinkedIn account for enhanced security? And will he use his personal phone for authentication, or make the same mistake he made earlier by using his work phone for authentication? We’ll know if we see a third LinkedIn profile from Joe the next time we login.

Other pro tips: how not to lose access to your personal on-line accounts (LinkedIn, Credit Cards, Facebook, web sites, domain registration, etc);

  • Never use your work email address as your primary contact email address. Use a personal email address.
  • Never use your work phone as your primary contact number. Use your personal phone.
  • Always use 2FA on all of your accounts. Make sure the 2FA is set up with your personal phone, not your work phone.
  • Refrain from using the email address given to you by your ISP (internet service provider). (e.g. Comcast, XFINITY, AT&T, etc.) You might probably will go to another ISP one day and lose access to that email account.

Postscript: If you’re like Joe, there may be a way to resolve your duplicate account problem on LinkedIn here. Good luck.

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About Brian Greenberg

Brian Greenberg is a senior strategy consultant specializing in whole systems design and leveraging technologies to advance the goals of organizations in the public, private, academic and not-for-profit sectors. An information systems and technology leader, Brian has 20 years experience in information systems design, architecture and business operations.  Brian holds a B.S. in Philosophy & Applied Computer Science and a M.A. in Whole Systems Design – Systems Theory. As a frequent industry speaker, Mr. Greenberg addresses how organizations can better align legal and business requirements with IT and has presented several papers and participated at conferences. Brian also sits on the Board of Directors of EcoMyths Alliance, a consortium of environmental education partners.