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.


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

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