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 technology and product leader, Forbes contributor, and is a member of the Forbes Technology Council. He lives in Chicago and has been working at companies of all sizes from the Fortune 100 to startups for over 30 years including international experience as an expatriate in Japan and Europe. In addition to being part of the Adjunct Faculty in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University, Brian Greenberg is an award winning CIO & CTO, considered a dynamic, entrepreneurial, and visionary leader, accomplished at strategic planning, process improvement, product development, and reengineering of key business processes. Highly successful in achieving financial results through strong customer loyalty and long term relationships with suppliers and vendors. Ability to achieve business results through strategic application of technology to business challenges. Readily pursues "stretch goals", not afraid to take risks, and is grounded in a strong teamwork approach. Regarded as a skilled communicator, team builder and negotiator who maximizes efficiencies and productivity through boosting employee morale and performance. Brian Greenberg has expertise in digital transformation, automation, turnaround management, security, data storage, and data protection. He is also a storyteller and an improvisor in Chicago’s comedy community.