Glassdoor's whole pitch has always been to anonymously trash talk their employers — but the site has now updated its policies and begun adding real names without consent, sparking outrage among users.

As Ars Technica reports, one Glassdoor user discovered this unfortunate change while trying to get her own information taken down.

Upon hearing about a real-name policy enacted since the company acquired the LinkedIn competitor Fishbowl, which requires user verification, Monica — a pseudonym Ars used to protect her identity — began looking into deleting her account or getting her information taken down to protect her real identity.

Monica contacted Glassdoor support, and was shocked to find that instead of helping her get her information down, the company populated her account with her real name instead, even though she repeatedly asked its customer support employees to do the exact opposite.

Deleting one's account, Monica learned, will not result in reviews or identifying information being taken down. The only way to do that is a takedown request, which Glassdoor support told her could take up to 30 days.

"Since we require all users to have their names on their profiles, we will need to update your profile to reflect this," a Glassdoor employee told Monica in an email reviewed by Ars. "Your anonymity will still be protected."

While those reassurances might have convinced less privacy-savvy users, experts are concerned that if subpoenaed or hacked, Glassdoor's database of corporate shit-talking could be used to punish employees.

Neither possibility is far fetched. Glassdoor has already been legally forced to unmask employees who left negative reviews. And who could forget life-ruining hacks like when Ashley Madison, a site for cheating spouses, got all its data stolen and publicly leaked.

"When a user provides information, either during the sign-up process or by uploading a resume, that information will automatically cross-populate between all Glassdoor services, including our community app Fishbowl," a Glassdoor spokesperson told Ars. "When using Glassdoor and Fishbowl, there is always the option to remain anonymous. Users can choose to be fully anonymous or reveal elements of their identity, like company name or job title, while using our community service."

After this story was published, Glassdoor followed up with another statement that also didn't address the concerns around hacking or subpoenas.

"Glassdoor is committed to providing a platform for people to share their opinions and experiences about their jobs and companies, anonymously — without fear of intimidation or retaliation," they said. "User reviews on Glassdoor have always and will always be anonymous. In the Glassdoor community, users always have the choice to post with their name or post anonymously with their company name or job title. Glassdoor has never and will never reveal a user’s name alongside their content, unless that is what the user chooses."

Aaron Mackey, an attorney for the digital rights nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), told Ars that historically, Glassdoor had a good track record when it came to protecting users' privacy. Since acquiring Fishbowl in 2021 and enacting the semi-anonymous networking app's user verification policies last summer, however, it seems to have changed its tune.

"If Glassdoor's purpose is really to empower employees to speak candidly about a variety of things that might occur in their work," Mackey said, "having the potential for your name to be associated with it, and having no choice but to provide Glassdoor with a real name is a problem."

"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," he told Wired in a separate interview.

Today, Glassdoor requires new users to also sign up for Fishbowl — and deleting one's account on both sites is, as Monica discovered, quite the pain.

The only way to delete her Fisbowl account, as Glassdoor support explained, was to "download the Fishbowl app and log in with either a social connection, your work email, or phone number to gain access to your account."

Ultimately, she was able to delete her account without giving any more information by using a form she'd found in the site's "help" section.

In short, her experience highlights how changing data practices can make users less safe online, even exposing them to possible employer retaliation.

"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 warned in a blog post about her experience, as quoted by Ars.

Besides, there's always the chance a user's identity could be exposed depending on what they include in their review, anonymously submitted or not.

"You acknowledge that Glassdoor cannot guarantee your anonymity," the company warns in its terms of use. "You should understand this risk before submitting Content to the services."

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