LinkedIn steps on age-guessing plug-in

Posted on October 26, 2015

 

Age-insight, a controversial add-on for Google’s Chrome browser that estimated the age of a person using their LinkedIn profile, has been withdrawn following an outcry.

Released early in October, developer Juan Ramirez said that the extension arose from his habit of trying to guess the age of people he had seen through the career networking site.

According to Ramirez, the software uses a straightforward algorithm that uses the date a person graduated from school or university as the basis of its calculation. It also took into account the name of the person. He expanded further:

“You can pool this data and say, like, ‘Oh, this person is named Juan. Juan was a popular name in 1989. You can try to normalize the data using that.”

A user’s work history and the number of previous jobs included on their profile were also incorporated into Age-insight’s estimate.

Product Hunt, a website that allows tech enthusiasts to share their discovery of new projects and apps, featured the plug-in ten days following its release, but it earned a lukewarm reception. Critics pointed out that it could be used to fuel age-based discrimination in the hiring process.

The same day that Product Hunt ran its review, Ramirez received a cease-and-desist order from LinkedIn. The programmer removed Age-insight from the Chrome Store on October 18th, saying:

“I didn’t develop this extension to encourage that kind of behaviour. Probably by 2:00pm that day [of Product Hunt’s review], I was ready to shut it down.”

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