UPDATED 4:45 p.m. ET Thursday with comment from LinkedIn.
The LinkedIn mobile app for iOS wants access to your Bluetooth connection so that it can connect to the LinkedIn accounts of other people in your vicinity — and vice versa. Needless to say, granting that permission might not be a good idea.
Users of iPhones with the LinkedIn app installed this morning (April 20) found this message on their screens: "LinkedIn would like to make data available to nearby Bluetooth devices even when you're not using the app. We will help you connect with others that are nearby."
So, in theory, this new feature might enable you to view the contact information and work history of strangers you encounter in a workplace elevator, which is perhaps the best-case scenario.
Other scenarios include getting the names and contact information of random people in subway cars, on shopping-mall escalators, in packed movie houses, in traffic jams and in underground parking lots — and letting those people see your details in return.
To avoid having this happen, don't give the LinkedIn app the Bluetooth permissions it asks for. You don't want to broadcast your name and workplace details to every stranger within 100 yards. (Yes, that is the theoretical range of Bluetooth transmissions.) You can check to make sure the Bluetooth permission is denied by going into Settings —> Privacy —> Bluetooth Sharing.
Better yet, just turn off your iPhone's Bluetooth radio when you're not using it. Leaving it on lets "beacons" in shopping malls track your movements, and leaving Wi-Fi on does too. Basically, you want your smartphone to "go dark" to everything but cellular transmissions when you leave the house or office.
We haven't seen or heard of Android devices getting this new LinkedIn functionality yet, but it may just be a matter of time.
We've contacted LinkedIn for comment about this, and will update this story when we get a response.
UPDATE: LinkedIn gave us the following statement:
"To help our members more easily connect with one another, we’re exploring an opt-in 'find nearby' feature that will help them find other members nearby. This will be an opt-in experience and members will have control of when their location is used for this feature. A prompt to enable Bluetooth on our iOS mobile app went out in error to a small group of LinkedIn members." (This group included at least one Tom's Guide staffer.) "We are working on a fix immediately and we apologize for any confusion. "
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Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at FoxNews.com, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.