This week, the world’s LinkedIn users saw the quick rise, and even quicker fall, of an app for the world’s largest professional network called Sell Hack. Upon its release, the browser extension was immediately controversial.
How Did Sell Hack Work?
After installation, the Sell Hack extension added a “Hack In” button to every profile page you visited on LinkedIn. Pressing the button allowed you to view that person’s email address, whether or not you were legitimately connected to them through the network.
How Could Sell Hack Find My Email In The First Place?
Sell Hack makes educated guesses. First, Sell Hack aggregates a huge amount of data from various online sources. Then, it cross-references the LinkedIn profile you’ve selected with the external data and returns a list of potential emails for that user. At the same time, Sell Hack collected data from its users’ activities, including information from the profiles of contacts they visited. In effect, Sell Hack could easily lift email addresses from user profiles you had legitimate access to, and offer them to other users, including those who had no connection to the original user.
Sell Hack maintains that it never did anything illegal. This is from their website: “the data we process is all publicly available. We just do the heavy lifting and complicated computing to save you time. We aren’t doing anything malicious to a Social website. We think browser extensions are the best way to personalize an individuals [sic] web experience.”
LinkedIn’s Swift Response To Sell Hack
LinkedIn quickly sent a cease and desist notice to the team of “dads from the midwest” who built Sell Hack.
LinkedIn offers premium members a service called InMail, essentially a LinkedIn-specific email address, from which they can contact any member on the network. This fact has led some to speculate that LinkedIn only sent Sell Hack the CD because the app threatened a source of revenue, by making the InMail function unnecessary.
In related news, LinkedIn recently acquired a company called Rapportive, whose app provides a function very similar to that of Sell Hack.
Learning LinkedIn: No App Required
Sell Hack’s own marketing copy stated its function like this: “Simplify prospecting ‘inside’ social profiles. Find hidden emails & more!”
While this pitch may seem to offer a Holy Grail for marketers of all types, there’s a reason why these emails are hidden in the first place. Primary among them being that social media allows us to interact with friends and professionals alike without cluttering the inbox of our personal email. Linkedin offered a level of security, a buffer zone, within professional interaction.
Many early adopters considered Sell Hack the best way to “crack” LinkedIn’s code, opening a new world of prospects for sales teams and anyone else who wanted to bother unsuspecting professionals with unsolicited pitches.
In reality, LinkedIn already offers all the tools you need to improve your professional network and maximize lead-prospecting opportunities already. If you don’t think you’re making the most of what LinkedIn has to offer, our LinkedIn training services offer personalized guidance from industry-leading experts!