There’s a new browser extension floating around that allows you to see the email of any member of LinkedIn at no cost—except your own privacy on the site.
The tool, called SellHack, allows you to “hack into” LinkedIn’s system and reveal the personal email on (almost) any person’s profile. Meaning anyone can grab your email off the site and use it for their own nefarious (or, er, professional?) purposes. No, SellHack isn’t breaking into LinkedIn’s secure systems. It does this, according to its very own blog, by running through an algorithm while you’re on a person’s LinkedIn page. The algorithm checks publicly available data to produce that person’s email address, or at least its very best guess.
The catch is, even after you’ve used SellHack, the extension is able to watch your activity on the site and collect the information of any direct connection whose page you’ve decided to visit. What it’s using this information for is unclear.
The plug-in is compatible with Chrome, Firefox, and Safari and is alarmingly easy to use.
All you need to do is, go to SellHack.com.
Click the blue Install Sell Hack Extension button.
Choose which browser you’re using.
Once you’ve picked, click the green button. (Below that button, you’ll see further instructions you’ll need to follow, depending on what browser you’re using.)
Depending on your browser, you may be asked to grant permission for this app to access your LinkedIn data. Keep in mind, this means you’ll be allowing the extension to look over your shoulder as you browse LinkedIn.
Once you click Add, you can go to LinkedIn.com and search for anyone whose contact information you’d like to procure. Take, for instance, Susan Patton, AKA the Princeton Mom.
On the right of the profile in question, there’ll be a button labeled Hack In.
Below, the person’s email address will be revealed.
If its that easy, imagine how quickly an advertiser or headhunter could snatch your info.
If you’ve tried it, you can (and should) uninstall the extension immediately afterward by going to Preferences > Extensions and scrolling down to SellHac, then clicking the trash can icon next to it. Here’s how to do it in Firefox and Safari.
LinkedIn’s Senior Manager of Corporate Communications Krista Canfield says that the company’s legal team is delivering SellHack a cease and desist letter “as a result of several violations.”
She also warned that those who downloaded SellHack should uninstall it immediately and contact the plug-in owners to delete their information.
"We advise LinkedIn members to protect themselves and to use caution before downloading any third-party extension or app," Canfield told Yahoo Tech. "Often times, as with the SellHack case, extensions can upload your private LinkedIn information without your explicit consent."
That was quick.
This story has been modified to note privacy concerns.