The real insight offered byAge-Insight, the Internet tool that guesses the age of Linkedin members, is the way it has exposed the palpable fear of age discrimination in employment.
After the product was featured on a popular technology web site, Product Hunt, Linkedin sent a cease and desist notice order to the developer, Juan Ramirez.
Ramirez this week removed the browser add-on from The Chrome Store and posted a notice on his website saying he would no longer distribute or support the program. Ramirez said he shares the concern that the program “could be easily abused and used by unscrupulous people to discriminate against others.”
Of course, it’s still out there. And other programs do pretty much the same thing. For example, Microsoft has an online tool called How-Old.net that guesses the gender and age of a person based upon an uploaded photo.
The truth is you don’t need a program to guess an individual’s age, race, national origin, and, in some cases, religion based upon their Internet presence.
A fairly accurate estimation is possible simply by looking at the individual’s photograph, work experience, and the number of jobs they have had. Even a name can shed light on a person’s ethnic or religious identity and age. Call me Ishmael?
The answer is not to get rid of Age-Insight and How-Old.net. The answer is to get serious about penalizing employers who engage in age discrimination.
My book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, shows indisputably that age discrimination is so pervasive that it is invisible in the United States. One reason is that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 offers far less protection to older workers than Title VII of the Civil Rights Act provides to workers who are subject to discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. I suggest scrapping the ADEA and making age a protected class under Titile VII, so at least older workers receive the same level of protection as other discrimination victims.