Time to delete your Glassdoor account

Recently I contacted Glassdoor for an account-related issue. This led to them sending me email that I had to respond to. Big mistake.

The TL;DR is: Glassdoor now requires your real name and will add it to older accounts without your consent if they learn it, and your only option is to delete your account. They do not care that this puts people at risk with their employers. They do not care that this seems to run counter to their own data-privacy policies.

--

I created my Glassdoor account about ten years ago. The only information they required at the time was an email address -- or you could sign in with Facebook or Google if you wanted, which I declined to do. Early on I set some job alerts, including location, as one does on a site with job postings. I didn't worry about that too much at the time.

After I responded to that support email last week, I found that they had updated my profile to add my real name and location, the name pulled from the email From line I didn't think to cloak because who does that? I never gave consent for that change, and said so explicitly when I objected. (In what follows, I was so fixated on my name that I didn't immediately notice my city was there too. I don't know how long it's been there.)

For context, here are some quotes from their own data policy:

As a global company, Glassdoor is subject to a variety of privacy laws that confer a range of privacy rights upon our users. We are committed to working to support compliance with the requirements of these global privacy laws and ensuring the rights and protections they offer are available to all of our users regardless of their location. [...]

We allow you to learn about, access, and control the personal data that Glassdoor holds about you. This includes data related to your use of Glassdoor.com, Fishbowlapp.com, and our associated apps. Using the form at the bottom of this page, you can request that Glassdoor allows you to: [...] Rectify your personal data. [...] Delete your personal data.

There is also this:

Right to withdraw consent for certain specific uses of your personal data on Glassdoor. [...] If we have collected and processed your personal information with your consent, then you can withdraw your consent at any time.

Note the loophole there -- "if we collected it with your consent". They haven't explicitly invoked that, but they could and it's slimy. (I never gave consent, therefore the dependent clause doesn't apply, they could argue.)

--

Now, on to the email discussion I had with, through escalations, three people over the course of six days.

First, they said that they are a "verified network" and "we require all users to verify their identity before giving them full access to our platform". Which parts constitute "full access" were not specified; they seem to mean FishBowl, a Blind-inspired social-media thing they're now doing. I don't care about that.

This requirement wasn't in place when I created the account -- demonstrably, as I was never required to provide a name. Sometime since then they changed the rules and my profile was sitting there with a null required field, I guess, until some employee noticed and edited it. I didn't find a notice of this changed requirement in my saved email, though it's possible I missed it or it got caught in a spam trap or something whenever it happened. I have no idea how long they've required that.

I replied to that message saying, in part, that I withdraw consent for them to store my name, in accordance with their data policy that they had helpfully provided me a link to. (Wasn't going to quibble over "withdraw" at that point. I thought this would be straightforward. How wrong I was.)

I got a reply from "lead, content and community team" -- I'm eliding employee names in this public post because I have more scruples than they do -- who informed me that though they were "required" to add my name to my profile, this would not affect the anonymous reviews I had posted in the past. Well I would hope not! But still, I said, them storing my name along with that data puts me at risk. I pointed out that we've seen ample evidence that anybody with a juicy online database can be hacked, and the mere presence of that involuntary data was a problem.

The next reply contained this plot twist:

So all users will now receive a Fishbowl account once they login to Glassdoor. Yours has already been created. All you need to do is download the Fishbowl app and login with either a social connection, your work email, or phone number to gain access to your account.

Say what now? You created and stored my personal information in a second account, and I can only get access to delete it by giving up even more information? Um, no. I guess that unsolicited account will just sit there.

(I asked where this was disclosed and was told that would be forthcoming. !!!)

This message went on to tell me that it was "not possible" to edit my name and if I want it gone, my only option is to delete my account. I responded that I planned to do that after I get my data dump, and in the meantime can they remove or anonymize my name -- reset to last week's level of privacy? It obviously is possible for them to edit that field because they did. Users, however, cannot edit it, so I can't fix it myself.

The reply came from "manager, content and community team":

I stand behind the decision that your name has to be placed on your profile and it cannot be reverted or nullified/anonymized from the platform. I am sorry that we disagree on this issue. We treat all users equally when it comes to what is eligible to be placed on the profile and what is not, but we know that there are times our users, such as yourself, may not always agree with us.

If you are not willing to allow your name on your profile, you will again need to complete Data erasure once you are able to. However, we cannot remove this for you or make the changes you wish to see for your name.

This is my final determination. I, as well as multiple members of my team, have reviewed your request several times, and I am considering this matter closed.

You heard it from the manager of Glassdoor's community team: they treat all users equally badly. Soon my account will be gone. If you have one, you might consider doing the same.