- You are applying for a job at Company X.
- The recruiter at or for Company X is a LinkedIn premium subscriber; he can "research" who works or worked at your current company, Company Y.
- He can reach out to those people and ask about you, "as a reference," even without your knowledge. So these are references, but ones you do NOT select or put forward. Yikes! If Coworker A at Company Y does not like you, he can give you a bad "reference" and wreck your job prospects.
Reference Search Exists Whether You Like It, Or Not
Many people - myself included - didn't even know this feature existed. And now there's a lawsuit about it on privacy grounds. The thing about Internet privacy in general is that, pretty much, you should go on the assumption that there is no privacy. Be careful about your "digital footprint," and be careful about being nicey-nice with everyone these days. You never know.
For the New York Times article about the lawsuit, click here.