Users ditch Glassdoor, stunned by site adding real names without consent

Glassdoor, where employees go to leave anonymous reviews of employers, has recently begun adding real names to user profiles without users’ consent, a Glassdoor user named Monica was shocked to discover last week.

“Time to delete your Glassdoor account and data,” Monica, a Midwest-based software professional, warned other Glassdoor users in a blog. (Ars will only refer to Monica by her first name so that she can speak freely about her experience using Glassdoor to review employers.)

Monica joined Glassdoor about 10 years ago, she said, leaving a few reviews for her employers, taking advantage of other employees’ reviews when considering new opportunities, and hoping to help others survey their job options. This month, though, she abruptly deleted her account after she contacted Glassdoor support to request help removing information from her account. She never expected that instead of removing information, Glassdoor’s support team would take the real name that she provided in her support email and add it to her Glassdoor profile—despite Monica repeatedly and explicitly not consenting to Glassdoor storing her real name.

Although it’s common for many online users to link services at sign-up to Facebook or Gmail accounts to verify identity and streamline logins, for years, Glassdoor has notably allowed users to sign up for its service anonymously. But in 2021, Glassdoor acquired Fishbowl, a professional networking app that integrated with Glassdoor last July. This acquisition meant that every Glassdoor user was automatically signed up for a Fishbowl account. And because Fishbowl requires users to verify their identities, Glassdoor’s terms of service changed to require all users to be verified.

While users can remain anonymous, this change raises some potential concerns about data privacy and anonymity, Aaron Mackey, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), told Ars.

The EFF regularly defends Glassdoor users from being unmasked by retaliating employers. Particularly for employees who fear retaliation for reviews, Mackey said that Glassdoor users could historically choose never to share their real names, and the company now storing names for all users makes it much more likely that users could be linked to their reviews should Glassdoor’s data ever be subpoenaed or leaked. That’s what had Monica so concerned, too.

“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,” Monica’s blog warned. “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.”

Monica soon discovered that deleting her Glassdoor account would not prevent them from storing her name, instead only deactivating her account. She decided to go through with a data erasure request, which Glassdoor estimated could take up to 30 days. In the meantime, her name remained on her profile, where it wasn’t publicly available to employers but it could be used to link her to job reviews if Glassdoor introduced a bug in an update or data was ever breached, she feared.

“Since we require all users to have their names on their profiles, we will need to update your profile to reflect this,” one Glassdoor employee wrote while reassuring her that “your anonymity will still be protected.”

“No one has the ability to see your user profile and the contents within it, meaning no one, including your employer, will be able to see your details,” Glassdoor’s employee wrote.

“I do not consent,” Monica responded. “I would delete my account before allowing that.”

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