Glassdoor Wants to Know Your Real Name

Glassdoor has a history of working to keep its users’ identities private, but there are concerns about these identity changes. “Glassdoor has been second to none in defending their user’s First Amendment rights,” says Aaron Mackey, a senior staff attorney with the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation. He represented a Glassdoor user in a case initiated in 2019 when their former employer, cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, attempted to unmask the authors of reviews, alleging that former workers had violated severance agreements with their posts. (The parties settled and the subpoena was withdrawn in 2020).

The current terms, Mackey says, are a big shift. “This is concerning, if the way in which they’re operating their business now creates potential for people to be identified, separate from whether or not they’re sued.”

Glassdoor won name recognition by marketing itself as a place focused on protecting anonymity, but companies with smaller workforces have always had good odds at guessing who wrote a particular review. That might be even easier if managers can also see social channels on Glassdoor where people are posting with their real names, indicating which workers have accounts on the site. People unaccustomed to thinking about their online footprint could inadvertently leave big clues, for example, by posting anonymously and then less covertly at the same time.

Glassdoor’s terms cite the risk. “You acknowledge that Glassdoor cannot guarantee your anonymity,” as a company or department’s size, the content posted, and the user’s location may allow employers’ to infer who left a review, the document says. “You should understand this risk before submitting Content to the services.”

Social Pivot

Glassdoor’s acquisition of Fishbowl in 2021 united two platforms that lured users by hosting relatively unfiltered discussions of work, a place to pick up the kind of gossip more often shared in person. Together they had offered a counterweight to LinkedIn, which relies on people using their full identities and often results in rose-tinted, overly congratulatory, and sometimes downright cringey posts about work.

Glassdoor is owned by Recruit Holdings, which also owns Indeed. Indeed and Glassdoor profit from advertising open jobs. Some 55 million people visit Glassdoor every month, according to the company. Verifying profiles could help prevent trolls from posting fake information about companies and misleading those seeking an insider’s view—all of which erode trust with other users.

Changing policies on names and verification can erode trust, too. If Glassdoor isn’t so anonymous, it may change how some of those users engage. The recent social media discussion inspired some people to try and delete their accounts.

Tracking the evolution of Glassdoor’s terms of service shows how its commitments to users changed as it began to add new social features. The company consolidated its terms with Fishbowl between December 2022 and January 2023, months before the company announced the new discussion channels on Glassdoor.

Some of the changes to the terms added information about how users are verified, as well as how they can be anonymous across services. Glassdoor’s terms of use state that the company may use information obtained from third parties to update profiles, along with personal data provided on résumés or elsewhere on its services. It may also attempt to verify employment history.

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