Social Enterprise

LinkedIn: Surprise changes to defaults affect your privacy

Do you know what Social Advertising is? If you use LinkedIn, you may already be part of it. Michael Kassner sorts out LinkedIn's privacy policy and suggests settings you may want to change.

Lately, I'm focused on privacy. I'm studying how behavior-targeted advertising affects it. Part of my regimen involves reading privacy policies -- interesting stuff, by the way.

That's why I visited LinkedIn's Privacy Policy. The fact that I have been a member of LinkedIn since day one is another reason. It is one of the few networking entities I'm willing to join. Skimming its policy, I found it typical. No real surprises. For example:

"We do not sell, rent, or otherwise provide personally-identifiable information to third parties without your consent except where it is necessary to carry out your instructions (to process your payment information, for example) or as described in Section 2 of this Privacy Policy."

Here is Section 2:

"Create and distribute advertising relevant to you or your network's LinkedIn experience. If you share your interactions on LinkedIn, for example, when you recommend a product, follow a company, establish or update your profile, join a Group, etc., LinkedIn may use these actions to create social ads for your network on LinkedIn using your profile photo and name. You can control whether LinkedIn uses your name and picture in social ads here."

There's a clue in there, but I didn't see it.

Then I read A Box You Want to Uncheck on LinkedIn by Steve Woodruff. Whoa. Did I ever miss something. Woodruff suggested that I go to the link in the second quote. Here's what I found:

I didn't check that.

I started wondering what else I didn't check. Back to the privacy policy, finding this:

"Through cookies and other technologies that allow us to recognize you, customize your experience, and serve advertisements both on and off LinkedIn. Learn more about cookies, beacons in Sections 1G and 1H, below. You can opt-out of advertising off LinkedIn here."

This time, I clicked on the link and found the following:

I didn't check that either.

Both are unchecked now.

Social advertising

I'd like to step back here for a second. Remember I didn't know what social advertising was. Well, I found out. And, the best quote I could find describing it came from Facebook's Mr. Zuckerberg:

"Social actions are powerful because they act as trusted referrals and reinforce the fact that people influence people. It's no longer just about messages that are broadcast out by companies, but increasingly about information that is shared between friends. So we set out to use these social actions to build a new kind of ad system."

That explained what LinkedIn is trying to do. What it did not explain was how I agreed to go along with it.

Policy change

I found the how and the why. LinkedIn made some dramatic changes on June 16. The changes are explained in this LinkedIn summary. Here's what it said about social advertising:

"Advertising and Endorsements on LinkedIn: We added this section to explain that LinkedIn may use you profile picture and name in social advertising shown to your network on LinkedIn.

We also explain that social advertising will contain information from you and your connections' interaction with the LinkedIn site (such as when you recommend a product or service on a company page, follow a company, etc.).

We also point you to the Setting where you can control the use of your profile information in LinkedIn's social advertising."

I did a search of the summary and found three mentions of members having to opt-out and only one of opting-in-all new to me. I find that unsettling.

Other new default settings

Steve Woodruff ended his post with the following update:

"After you finish with Account, check the new default settings under E-mail Preferences (such as Partner InMails); and Groups, Companies & Applications (such as Data Sharing with 3rd-party applications). It's a Facebook deja vu!"

Final thoughts

LinkedIn has come down on the side of opt-in versus opt-out. This is clear. I find myself wondering about LinkedIn's motives. Update: Ryan Roslansky, Director of Product Marketing for LinkedIn, has already responded publicly to the complaints in this post. They intend to change the way social advertisements look. But, do nothing about the opt-in/out situation:

"We made it easy for our members to opt-out of inclusion from all social ads with one click. On each member’s Accounts and Settings page, the first option under Privacy Controls (under the “Account” tab) is 'Manage Social Advertising'."

I will let you decide whether this is an improvement or not.

About

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

51 comments
Lazarus439
Lazarus439

Have you considered billing them for using you as a product endorser? Regardless of what he actually wears, I seriously doubt Michael Jordon does the Hanes commercials for free. The sites that engage is this social advertising #$@% are essentially using everyone they've co-opted into their scheme as UNPAID product endorsers. It seems to me that, since one doesn't volunteer to be included, that compensation is due for each ad that includes one's "name/photo".

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It should be an opt-in. Any choice to share more of a user's information should be an opt-in. It's not a discussion. It's not a debate. That's simply how it should be. A default opt-out is a sleezy way to abuse one's user base. Shame on you Linked In.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

I've never belonged to 'MyFace' type sites(!); LinkedIn seemed practical to me at the time I joined (there was no FB yet, but MySpace was in its heyday). I watch my sweetie jump through hoops to stay one step ahead of the constantly-changing opt-out rules on FB (facial-recognition the latest), and feel smug that I only belong to LinkedIn---who wouldn't treat its members that way....I, too, have been getting extra e-mail from them lately---ads---and now know why. Bye, bye, LinkedIn; won't miss you a bit.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. When something says it's "FREE", always read the fine print. They have to pay the bills somehow, and frequently it's done by selling information about subscribers to the "free" service. And sometimes it happens after-the-fact, as was the case here. Thanks for the heads-up. It's easy to opt-out, it just needs to be done.

WDMilner
WDMilner

And so perhaps the last sane social networking site, purportedly a professional one, bites the dust as it opt's in to discarding consideration for its members in favour of advertising and data mining revenue. Given the type of members of LinkedIn comapred to Facebook, this could mean a steady loss of membership, or at least a marked impairment of acquiring new members. In the end, it may mean less revenue not more. When will these site owner's wake up to thenfact that if you trat your users right you'll benefit far more in the long term.

reedmb
reedmb

In my neck of the woods it is called being bushwacked. It is not polite. It is not considerate. It is selfish. It is deceitful and deceptive. It is not good at all. It is done by those who would rather take than ask. It may be legal, but it does not mean it is not an 'involuntary taking'.

andrenadd
andrenadd

I will pass on this valuable information!

wprice
wprice

Thank you, Michael, for not only digging these changes out but publishing your findings. I too have unchecked both boxes. I have also shared your findings with colleagues that aren't subscribers to TechRepublic (maybe they will sign up!). cheers, bp

dburgado
dburgado

Thanks for the info! Incredible how the "opt-out" is so hidden to most of us. I had no clue about this, so how would I opt out if I had not come across this? Thank you, Michael.

wyattharris
wyattharris

I know reading those multipage agreements must be like nails on the chalkboard but thank you very much for taking the time to do it. We all need to be aware of what we are getting into when we simply check "I Agree".

foucault
foucault

Michael, Thanks a lot for bringing up the subject for opt-in/opt-put privacy settings in social networking. I for one had a complete confidence in LinkedIn and though and spoke of the network as one of the best professional ones available - what a disappointment. Now I have to watch my back which will consequently make me less interested in participating or being active in LinkedIn in the future. Don't the founders realize that by liberating the personal privacy they loose more from their audience rather than gain. I understand, advertising is the source of revenue to them but at THIS cost...! On one of your remarks, I recall receiving notifications from the LinkedIn support about changes in policy but can't claim about this one. So, again thank you for sharing your research observations.

Manitobamike
Manitobamike

I have always wondered why sites like Linkedin are popular. To me it seems like facebook for business people. Why do people feel the need to have this type of global shared contact list. My contact list on my email and phone contain only the people/businesses that I actually deal with and to me that seems sufficient. What am I missing that Linkedin would provide? Not trying to be smartass just wondering what the advantages are?

aeiyor
aeiyor

Good Day All. Michael Kassner, Thank you for the article and update about the updates in Linked-IN. As of late, I've noticed a stronger proliferation of emails and added broadcasts. So it helps to know about these settings which are enabled by default. A few weeks back I had broadcasted an FYI to friends about Google+ whereby accounts were being deleted without warning (I believe the fan fare was due to name usage) - In any event it soured my experience with Google and so I hadn't extended my profile or added people on Google+. Sincerely, Satori.

BeccaG64
BeccaG64

Thanks for the TIPS Michael!!!! Got it all set now.. Keep on reading those policies and reporting on em.. LOVE it that you're doing it for me.. LOL.. :) Who has time to read all the gobbledygook, Thanks again.. really!!!!

Twister_7777
Twister_7777

Privacy is a big issue today, very interesting that someone takes the time to sneak around and discover stuff that is not explain openly and that is performing big privacy issue. Thanks again, I've opt-out from all. Cheers ! Pat.

tsssys
tsssys

I'm going to send the link to this article around to some of my business associates who are also on LinkedIn. I thought LinkedIn was a tiny bit more transparent than other SN sites, but you (and Steve Woodruff) have shown us they're just as bad, if not worse. Also, I'd like to point out that when I went to look for this in my profile, I couldn't find it. The "old" profile page came up, so I actually had to go into the privacy statement to find the link to "Manage Social Advertising". Once I changed those settings, the new profile page came up. I was then able to find and change the settings under E-mail Preferences and Groups, Companies & Applications. I didn't get any notification of any change in the privacy policy either. Really, that's the worst part of this.

dgeorge
dgeorge

I expect they will bury now that it's gotten out where the opt out fields are.

seanferd
seanferd

Nice. Anything else genuine and human that these so-called social networks would like to take from us? I swear, if people were convinced they could make a quick buck by shooting themselves, they'd do it. Humans - the only animal smart enough to be stupid.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Read Mr W's destructions and opted out if this new wonderful and valuable feature. Thank to you for the heads up, as I don't remember the chaps at linked in mentioning this, and to him for enough clues as to where they were, which in my opinion was less than obvious.. I tend to take a really dim view of this sort of crap, if another default opted in setting magically appears me and these boys are going to be parting company, at least FB are essentially honest in their approach...

Craig_B
Craig_B

I have noticed that I started receiving advertising emails from LinkedIn and was wondering about them. I just deleted them and figured I'd poke around LinkedIn later. I guess I'll have to do that sooner. I know why companies choose Opt-Out (they get everyone signed up and a lot of people are unaware, too lazy, don't care, etc. to actually Opt-Out). I still wish I had a vote and a voice up front with Opt-In. Makes me want to turn off the computer, go outside and read a book (made out of paper), the ultimate Opt-Out.

ajbloodhart
ajbloodhart

Thank you for bringing these changes to our attention. I thought I had made all the appropriate changes to the settings and check periodically; however, not since June. Obviously I will need to check more frequently. You are dead on re: your comment on LinkedIn's motives.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

LinkedIn has landed on the side of requiring member to opt-out. That change means privacy policies involving a choice are automatically opted in. Make sure you agree with their choices.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I have been talking to my legal friends and they see potential for litigation. There is verbiage that we agree to all LinkedIn policies when we become members. The issue as they see it, is when Linkedin changed those policies. Is the way they informed all members considered appropriate in the realm of law.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I think,most are concerned about not being informed about the change.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

How many were ambivalent to the change. It seems LinkedIn is counting on them to be a majority of members.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

What LinkedIn is doing seems counterproductive from the comments I have been getting.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

perchance did you look at the email settings that changed as well?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

We are not sure who originally found it. It was a friend told a friend sort of thing.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

It is more a friend told a friend, told a friend, told Steve Woodruff and I read his blog.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Wasn't there before... Don't even remember agreeing to agree that I'd agree with anything they chose to think that in my place they'd think that it would be okay for them to agree for me, to agree. I think :(

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I am wondering the same myself. Particularly, with an IPO in their near future.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If you belong to a professional grou which has adopted Linked In as it's it's discussion "forums" then you'll have a hard time not signing up for an account. Until this stupidity, Linked In apeared to be the only social networking site that actually provided something directed at professionals.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Networking is crucial today, I think you would agree. So people use LinkedIn as a digital version of that.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I just started looking at Google+. I hope to know more in a few weeks.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

It is disconcerting, that they feel the need to work it that way.

Railroad Buff
Railroad Buff

At the top right I see my name as the header for a drop-down menu, in fairly small type. That menu contains entries "Settings" and "Log out". The Settings page contains everything you want to get to. That's how I just got to the offenders.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I am glad you mentioned about how to find the configuration. I came about it a different way.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I was glad Steve pointed out how to get to the configuration.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Last night, my son and I were watching a special on TV. It seems that human intelligence is both a curse and a blessing, similar to what you alluded to.

santeewelding
santeewelding

You're not in charge of anything. I suspect there would be changes, if you were.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I have been asking everyone and not one has responded that they were given any indication by LinkedIn of this change. The response by LinkedIn has no mention of that being an issue to them either.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

And, I love your ultimate opt-out. Go outside and read a book. I may just do that.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

The only problem I see is how often is often enough. I did not get any kind of notification. Did you?

Spamosborn
Spamosborn

Another very useful and worrying article. I too didn't receive any notification of changes. Like you, I tend to steer clear of social networking and was of the opinion that LinkedIn was an exception to the intrusive rule. Clearly mistaken, shame really.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Please, PLEASE let me get through just one more decade of work so I don't have to be concerned with professional or social networking (or my inability to do either) ever again.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I used that feature many times. What surprised me was the Manage Social Advertising button.

seanferd
seanferd

As well as Santee's. Did the TV special allude to the manners of cortical processing behind that sort of behavior? Just plain odd. Why not vote down my post instead?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Having been laid-off, down-sized, and bought out a few times, I do believe networking plays an important part. Secondly, networking has allowed me to meet amazing people. That in of itself is important. . A thought: Many would consider TR discussions a form of networking.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I appreciate the fact that the comment along with the article are being read.