Users say Glassdoor added real names to user profiles without their consent

Users of the popular site Glassdoor, which lets anyone anonymously sign up to review companies they have worked for, say Glassdoor collected and added their names to their user profiles without their consent.

One user, who goes by Monica, wrote in a post on her personal blog that Glassdoor added her name and the city where she lives to her Glassdoor profile following an email exchange with Glassdoor customer support, despite having never provided her name during the sign-up process some years earlier. Monica, whose last name we’re not publishing to protect her privacy, accused Glassdoor of getting her full name from the email she sent to customer support, which she says they added to her Glassdoor profile.

“My email ‘from’ line contains my full name — never thought that would be a problem!” Monica told TechCrunch in an email. “They then added my name to my Glassdoor profile.”

Monica repeatedly protested Glassdoor, telling customer support that the company did not have her consent or permission to do this. But Glassdoor said Monica was “required” to have her name added to her profile, adding that this would not compromise her anonymity of past reviews she gave. Monica said that her anonymity might not last if Glassdoor was to experience a hack or a data breach and compromise users’ data. It also means this information can be obtained by legal process, such as a lawsuit or police demanding access to Glassdoor user data.

As Monica explained, Glassdoor will add a user’s real name (and potentially other information) to the user’s account without their permission if Glassdoor learns it.

And the only other option is to delete your account, Monica said.

Glassdoor users expressed alarm at Monica’s story, which has been widely shared on social media and news-sharing sites, for fear that their anonymity could be compromised by having data collected about them and added to their profiles, as well.

“It’s not clear to me how they got this information.” Josh Simmons, Glassdoor user

Glassdoor has long allowed users to sign up anonymously. In 2021, Glassdoor bought Fishbowl, a semi-anonymous professional social network site that allows users to “ask questions without disclosing your name.” Ars Technica, which first reported Monica’s story, explained that Fishbowl requires users to verify their identities before using the site. As part of the acquisition deal, Glassdoor signed every user up for a Fishbowl account, meaning Glassdoor would have to change its terms of service so that every Glassdoor user could also be verified.

Aaron Mackey, an attorney with the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, told TechCrunch that Glassdoor has been an “industry leader” in defending its users’ anonymity. Mackey previously defended an anonymous Glassdoor user in court whose employer tried to unmask and identify their identity.

“We hope that Glassdoor will continue to defend its users’ anonymity in court,” said Mackey. “But the latest news regarding Glassdoor’s policies raises concerns about whether users may be identified even if their information is never sought by an employer or law enforcement. Those policies also appear to conflict with, or at least be in tension with, Glassdoor’s goal of encouraging employees to candidly review their employers.”

In some cases, the data added to the user’s profile did not completely line up.

Josh Simmons said Glassdoor added information about him to his profile without his consent, describing it as a “breach of trust.” Simmons told TechCrunch that he did not know how Glassdoor got his personal data.

“It’s not clear to me how they got this information,” Simmons told TechCrunch. “I didn’t have any social accounts connected to Glassdoor, and I hadn’t used the service in several years,” suggesting that the data may have been scraped or come from a data broker.

Simmons said his supplemented Glassdoor profile had an “incoherent mix of details, but each detail was correct in isolation,” describing how Glassdoor got the name of his consultancy correct but jumbled his location in California with his main client based in London.

“Taken together, it signaled to me that it was the result of an automated process,” Simmons said.

By Glassdoor’s own admission, the company says on its website that it is “unable to fully confirm our users’ identities, the truthfulness of their contributions, or their employment status.” It’s not clear what the goal of Glassdoor’s data collection is if the information is not accurate.

When reached for comment, Glassdoor spokesperson Amanda Livingood would not answer TechCrunch’s specific questions, including how — if at all — Glassdoor verifies the accuracy of the information it receives, or how it can be used or obtained. Glassdoor does not publish a transparency report detailing the number of requests for user data it receives from law enforcement.

Instead, the company provided a boilerplate statement:

Glassdoor is committed to providing a platform for people to share their opinions and experiences about their jobs and companies, anonymously – without fear of intimidation or retaliation. User reviews on Glassdoor have always and will always be anonymous. In the Glassdoor community, users always have the choice to post with their name or post anonymously with their company name or job title. Glassdoor has never and will never reveal a user’s name alongside their content, unless that is what the user chooses.

Mackey said that the risk of data breaches or legal demands are magnified because Glassdoor is now collecting more information about users that could identify them. “But because Glassdoor now collects that information, including from email addresses and headers, Glassdoor now has data that directly identifies their users,” Mackey said.

That leaves users like Monica with no choice but to delete their account if they are not willing to have their name on their profile. And so Monica did.

According to Monica, closing your account just deactivates it. If you want to fully delete your Glassdoor account, you can head over to this specific Glassdoor privacy request page and fill out the data request form with the appropriate selection, such as “Delete my personal data.”

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