What does it mean to have a verified profile? For many, it’s been viewed as a status symbol, something the majority of users don’t have, and grants a measure of legitimacy and authenticity. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have long been the biggest social media companies to offer these fabled “blue checkmarks,” but not anymore. There’s a new player in the space and it’s time we talked about LinkedIn’s verification program.
What Does LinkedIn’s Verification Offer?
This isn’t the first step the Microsoft-owned company is taking to improve the quality of its members. In October 2022, LinkedIn announced it was using artificial intelligence to detect fake profiles and released a feature to let users detect how “fresh” an account is.
Rolling out to all users is a feature that not only lets users verify who they are on the platform but also where they work — and it’s free to all. As LinkedIn’s Vice President of Product Management Oscar Rodriguez explained in his announcement post: “Through all these new, free features, we’re helping give you the confidence that who you’re connecting with and the content you come across is trusted and authentic.”
Instead of handling the verification process, LinkedIn teamed with the security identity platform CLEAR (the same service you use to get through the airport security line and to hold your COVID-19 vaccination information). When getting verified, users will provide their valid government-issued ID and U.S. phone number. A “badge” will appear on approved LinkedIn profiles.
To minimize people impersonating employees at companies, LinkedIn lets users verify their accounts either through their work email or the Microsoft Entra Verified ID platform. This is helpful because anyone can claim they work at a major tech firm, financial institution, government agency, etc. and it’s hard to determine if it’s legit or not.
It seems that it would be ideal for users to not only verify their profiles but the company they work for.
The Checkmark Controversy
Before going any further, it’s important to understand the state of verification — it’s been anything but smooth progress, regardless of the platform.
Twitter was among the first to offer select users a checkmark and it wasn’t easy to come by. Recipients were often celebrities, personalities frequently targeted for impersonation by scammers or bots, or other people caught up in the news cycle. But eventually, the company lost sight of what the symbol meant. After being heavily criticized after verifying an organizer of a far-right protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, Twitter paused its program.
The company explained at the time that verification was “meant to authenticate identity & voice” but some users felt having a blue checkmark was seen as an endorsement or that the account was at least significant.
It would be a few years before Twitter would restart verifications, only for it to be immediately paused after another far-right persona received their blue checkmark. The program would be revamped under the leadership of Elon Musk, allowing users to purchase their verification as part of the company’s Twitter Blue subscription program. Doing so, Musk claimed, would reduce the number of bots on the platform.
It hasn’t exactly gone really well.
Facebook and Instagram have followed a similar path to Twitter, though seem to have largely escaped the criticism levied on their social media competitor. While the Meta-owned platforms started out granting verified profiles on their own, it eventually allowed users to apply for verification — at least on Instagram — and asked applicants to submit government-issued ID as proof of identity. Not everyone who applied would receive the blue checkmark — I know from experience, as someone denied multiple times for not being deemed newsworthy.
That leads to modern times in which Meta joins Twitter in letting users pay for verification. With “Meta Verified,” profiles get the blue checkmark along with priority customer support, increased visibility and more — certainly useful for those who are making a living off of the company’s apps or finding themselves frequently targeted by hackers or for impersonation.
LinkedIn’s Verification: No Bells and Whistles
It’s understandable to think LinkedIn has a barebone offering. After all, both Twitter and Meta offer a plethora of other features aimed at getting you to sign up for it. But the difference is the audience.
LinkedIn is exclusively a professional social network while its peers are a hybrid of consumer and professional. And verification is free for all members, unlike with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — unless you’re a legacy recipient.
Ensuring high-quality profiles on the platform improves LinkedIn’s bottom line because not only will it create a better environment for advertisers, but also for users who rely on the social network for its community, ability to learn via LinkedIn Learning and more.
And let’s not forget about LinkedIn’s importance to Microsoft.
Partnering with CLEAR and Microsoft Entra lends LinkedIn’s verification program credence. It has the potential to minimize accusations from critics of bias — after all, if a platform can effectively screen airport passengers to ensure our safety, why can’t they prove someone’s identity for a social network? It’s likely LinkedIn didn’t want to deal with this headache and wanted a proven authority to make members feel comfortable.
The Concern Over Surrendering Data
When I posted about LinkedIn’s verification plan on LinkedIn, my friend and security expert Suki Fuller said she was “conflicted” and I think I understood what she meant. On one hand, you’re providing personally identifiable information to a third-party provider, even if it’s CLEAR, to get verified. On the other, you’re giving CLEAR your information.
Some may consider this to be a more prudent approach than with Twitter or Meta — reservations could exist around giving more data to the Musk-run company, or surrendering info to Meta, even though Mark Zuckerberg already knows enough about us. The fact CLEAR is frequently handling sensitive data could provide some users reassurance and is a company not controlled or influenced by a Big Tech firm.
Maybe it’s more about the lesser of two evils?
I ultimately believe this is a good step forward by LinkedIn to improve the health of the social network. It’ll help those looking to build up their network, trying to find their next job or reach influencers avoid scams. Too often these days am I the recipient of suspect profiles. And we know the use of artificial intelligence can quickly spin up these accounts — and many seem really convincing.
LinkedIn knows it has a problem. In June, it disclosed that it has seen “a rise in fraudulent activity happening across the Internet, including here on LinkedIn, and heard questions on how we are working to prevent it.” The company claimed, “we stop and remove the vast majority of policy violating content that we detect before it ever goes live – 96% of detected fake accounts and 99.1% of detected spam and scams are caught by our automated defenses.”
The deployment of a verification badge is a nice effort to reassure users of the people they’re connecting with. Now we’ll have to wait to see if LinkedIn’s bet pays off.