Posey's Tips & Tricks

LinkedIn Integration Comes to Office 365

Outlook's new LinkedIn hooks will help personalize e-mails to those you might not know too much about.

Microsoft's acquisition of social network LinkedIn last year left a lot of people scratching their heads, and wondering what the software giant had in mind for its new purchase. I vaguely remember writing at the time that I thought that we would probably eventually see LinkedIn integration into  Yammer, and that Microsoft might possibly build some sort of LinkedIn integration into Dynamics.

Last month at Ignite, we learned that the first Microsoft product to receive LinkedIn integration will be Outlook. Simply put, when a user receives an e-mail from someone, they will be able to hover the mouse over the sender's name to see the sender's LinkedIn card. This card will reveal information about the person such as where they work, what they do, and possibly even where they went to school.

Of course LinkedIn does not expose sensitive personal information to just anyone. You can typically only see personal information for people with whom you have established a connection.

The way that Microsoft is going to handle this requirement will be to establish connectivity between a user's Microsoft account and their LinkedIn account. This will allow LinkedIn profile data to be displayed in Outlook for messages from anyone from whom the user has a LinkedIn connection. Although it has not been explicitly stated, I am assuming that Microsoft will probably also provide a way to link domain accounts to LinkedIn profiles.

I have to admit that I am really curious to see how Outlook's soon to be implemented LinkedIn integration is going to play out. I think that there are both positive and negative aspects to connecting LinkedIn to  Outlook in this way.

On a positive note, combining LinkedIn and Outlook can potentially improve business relationships. I think that it is probably safe to say that  over the course of a work day, most of us probably exchange messages with both co-workers and with contacts who work for other companies. If you work in the same building as your coworkers, then you probably communicate with them on a regular basis. This might include e-mails, instant messages, meetings and maybe even chats around the proverbial water cooler. The point is, that you probably know your coworkers relatively well.

The same might not necessarily be true of contacts who work for other organizations, especially if it isn't someone that you communicate with regularly. Having LinkedIn integration can help you to know just a little bit more about the person that you are communicating with. At the very least, you can put a face with the name, but you might also gain a bit of business value by knowing a bit more about the person that you are communicating with.

At the same time, I think that there are at least two negative aspects to Outlook's LinkedIn integration. First, having LinkedIn integration might cause some people to feel pressured to expand their social networks in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Let me give you an example...

Facebook is another example of a social network. Even though I do have a Facebook account, I only accept friend requests from close friends and family. Now imagine for a moment that Outlook suddenly had Facebook integration. How long do you think it would be before there was pressure from the boss, coworkers, or that new client to accept friend requests? I will concede that LinkedIn is different from Facebook in that it is specifically designed to cultivate business relationships. Even so, there are people that I would prefer not to connect with.

The other potential negative that could stem from Outlook's LinkedIn integration, is that it could help to legitimize spammers and those who want to perform phishing attacks.

Suppose for a moment that a user decides to accept LinkedIn requests from anyone who asks. Now imagine that someone who has bad intent decides to set up a bogus LinkedIn account and connect with that person. The connection could be used to gather information about the person and the company, that could later be used in a spear phishing attack.

Later when the would be attacker makes contact by E-mail, the victim might assume that it is safe to open the message attachment, because the message is from one of the LinkedIn "friends".

For the most part I think that integrating LinkedIn into Outlook will prove to be beneficial. Even so, there are sure to be some new scams that try to take advantage of this integration.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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