LinkedIn Ceases Using Member Profiles for Advertising

Friday, August 12, 2011



Professional social network LinkedIn has pulled a one-eighty after receiving overwhelming criticism for using member profiles, images and activity in a social network advertising campaign.

The brunt of the criticism was the decision to "opt-in" members for participation automatically without first getting their expressed permission.

While members had the ability to "opt-out" of the campaign through their account privacy settings, a brouhaha ensued over the perceived surreptitiousness regarding the use of the default consent to participate. 

The ads LinkedIn was automatically opting members in to had looked like this:


The revised ads will now look like this:


LinkedIn maintains that they had provided sufficient notice of the program via announcements and blog postings on the matter, but nonetheless decided to make drastic alterations to the campaign after the flood of bad press and complaints from members.

Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn's director of product management blogged on the issue, stating:

Over the last few days, some of you may have read stories or blog posts about new forms of advertising that we are testing on our site, called “social ads”. Since the launch, we’ve also been gathering feedback from our users and we hear you loud and clear.

The trust of our members is central to what we do, and we always aim for clarity, consistency, and member control in all matters related to privacy and data. With that in mind, let me clarify a few things:

  • In early June, we announced changes to our privacy policy — including the new ad format’s opt-out policy — ahead of the first small test of these social ads. We also reiterated the same during the launch of social ads, explaining how members could opt-out of sharing their recommendations with their network. For those members who may have not read this on our blog, we included a banner ad on the site that contained a link to the new documents, including a summary of the changes, and links from which all members could easily access their account settings.
  • We never share personal information with third party advertisers. That was true prior to the launch of the social ads test, and remains true today. The only information that is used in social ads is information that is already publicly available and viewable by anyone in your network.
  • Most importantly, 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”.

LinkedIn has implemented many format changes over the last year in what some deem as an effort to become more Facebook-like in their interface, with some of the changes being more positively received than others.

The decision to pull a sneaky Facebook-like privacy encroachment was definitely a step too far in that direction.

We applaud LinkedIn's relatively swift response to the backlash and their decision to curtail the use of member profiles for advertising purposes.

Possibly Related Articles:
Privacy Advertising Web Application Security Social Media Headlines Accounts LinkedIn Default Settings
Post Rating I Like this!
The views expressed in this post are the opinions of the Infosec Island member that posted this content. Infosec Island is not responsible for the content or messaging of this post.

Unauthorized reproduction of this article (in part or in whole) is prohibited without the express written permission of Infosec Island and the Infosec Island member that posted this content--this includes using our RSS feed for any purpose other than personal use.