How I Learned What Linkedin SECRETLY Thinks of Me

Tom Orbach
min read

I went on a journey to discover what the Linkedin algorithm thinks of me — <hl>and what I found shocked me<hl>. Here’s a guide on how to do it yourself.

How I Learned What Linkedin SECRETLY Thinks of Me (& You)

It shouldn’t surprise you that Linkedin collects a lot of data about you.

Just like any other social network, <hl>they run ads<hl>. And in order to run these ads efficiently, Linkedin gathers as much information as possible to show the most relevant ads to different audiences.

As an active Linkedin user, I was curious to find out just how Linkedin perceives me. <hl>Who is the “me” they sell to advertisers?<hl> What do I look like in their image? 

I thought that Linkedin's description of my alleged characteristics might help me understand why I see the ads I’m seeing. Also, it may provide insight into how my voluntary data contributions (like the posts I publish) may influence that description.

Let’s check this out!

How to Get a Copy of Your Data from Linkedin

Here’s the good news: 

It’s easy. Requesting a copy of your data from Linkedin only takes three minutes of your time. It doesn’t matter where you live in the world and what privacy regulations apply to you. Linkedin will give you your data no matter where you live, and they’ll even give you more than raw (and boring) data: <hl>Linkedin will also tell you specifically what the algorithm thinks of you<hl>. Kudos to them.

Step 1: To get started, head over to Linkedin from a desktop computer (not mobile) and click on the little “Me” bubble with your head on it, at the top left corner of the screen.

Step 2: Then, click on “Settings & Privacy”, and then “Data Privacy”. You should now see a page titled “How Linkedin uses your data” (if you don’t navigate there using the left sidebar).

Step 3: Click on “Get a copy of your data.”

Step 4: Choose the first option, “Download larger data archive…”, and click on “Request archive”.

That’s it! You’re done.

Simply wait about 10 minutes, and you’ll receive half of the copy of your data via email. You'll get the second half a day later. Keep in mind that once you receive the email, you need to download your data immediately, as the download link will expire within 72 hours.

Making Sense of the Mess

Got the emails? Great! 

Let’s explore what we see here.

You probably got two emails total, each with a link to download files named “Complete_LinkedInDataExport_[date].zip”. Inside, you’ll find a huge collection of files — and that’s exactly the problem: <hl>it can be very overwhelming to try to make anything out of this massive ocean of data<hl>. 

To be honest, it’s not Linkedin’s fault entirely. It’s got to do with privacy laws.

While regulations such as the GDPR force companies to send users a copy of their data upon request, <hl>these laws don’t instruct companies on how to send the data<hl> (in which file types and in what order). That means that Linkedin can send it to you in any form they wish - which is exactly what they do. It’s complicated, messy, and very overwhelming. 

But we’re here to help!

A Tour in Linkedin’s Jungle

So, what can we find inside “Complete_LinkedInDataExport_[date].zip”?

Many, many spreadsheets. 

These spreadsheets include all the messages you’ve ever sent or received; the ads you clicked on; a list of people who liked your posts; all of the comments you’ve ever left on this platform; and much, much more. Each of these spreadsheets is in a .csv format. That’s far better than other companies that may send you your data in the horrid .xml and .json file formats, which you cannot open. You can view the contents of Linkedin’s .csv files with Excel, or by uploading them to your Google Drive.

Don’t waste your time trying to go through all of these files. It’s mostly “dry” data that won’t give you any valuable insight. 

We try to locate something specific: <hl>There’s a spreadsheet titled “Inferences_about_you.csv”<hl>. That’s the gold mine we’re looking for. “Inferences_about_you.csv” reveals what the Linkedin algorithm assumes about your life. This file will answer many questions about you, such as:

  1. Are you a “people leader”?
  2. Do you have career stability?
  3. Are you a decision-maker for your company?
  4. Do you influence the financial opinion and conversations of others?
  5. Do you possess $100K+ in investable assets?

My deepest, darkest secret (according to Linkedin)

I don’t know how to tell you this: <hl>Most of Linkedin’s assumptions about me are plain wrong.<hl>

I’m currently a Growth Marketing Manager in a startup called Mine. I started out my career in the marketing world nine years ago, in 2013. But <hl>according to Linkedin, I’m not very likely to be a marketer<hl>. To be more specific, Linkedin thinks there’s a 2% chance I’m a marketer.

Linkedin made some weird assumptions about me as well: The algorithm thinks that I love electric cars (I don’t), that I’m a student interested in higher education (after completing two degrees, I’m totally done with it), and that I’m a business traveler (I always choose economy class, thank you very much).

I’ve never shared any information that may imply any of the above. I don’t follow a lot of automotive companies. I’m not an active student - Linkedin knows that I finished three years ago - I voluntarily shared this information. I’ve never talked about my travel habits. In addition, Linkedin believes I own more than $100,000 in investable assets.

Why It Matters

You might think for yourself: “So what?! You’ll see some irrelevant ads, and that’s about it”.

The thing is, Linkedin uses this data and sells it to advertisers - and maybe other parties in the future.

Imagine this scenario: You’re at the final stage of a long, frustrating series of job interviews at your dream company. Then suddenly, the interviewer drops a bomb: “We know you’re very interested in a new job, so we got leverage. We also know that your checking account should be comfortable, so our offer will be very low compared to the salary you asked for”.

Scary, right? This story seems to be taken from a dystopian movie, but it might as well be the future if Linkedin decides to share its assumptions and predictions with companies who are willing to pay. 

My advice: <hl>Go check what Linkedin knows about you, ASAP<hl>. If you’re not using the service anymore, make sure you don’t leave your data hanging around there - reclaim it and ask for it to be deleted.

That’s it! Now that you’re back in control over your personal data, you can use Mine to discover which companies and apps hold your data, and keep it only where you want it.

How I Learned What Linkedin SECRETLY Thinks of Me

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