LinkedIn, Privacy, and Notification – Let’s Discuss!

[See UPDATE below!]

Quite an unanticipated firestorm has swelled up after I published this blog post (A Box You Want to Uncheck on LinkedIn) Wednesday, which describes LinkedIn’s force-users-to-opt-out-of-social-advertising policy (and shows you how to opt out).

Most of the comments on the blog and via social networks have expressed gratitude over finding out about it – even though LinkedIn quietly (via their blog) introduced changes  in their Privacy Policy back in June. I say quietly because – well, no-one seemed to notice anything!

Technically, it could be argued that LinkedIn did cover its bases in a way that a grinning lawyer might defend – they did give public notification of some form. The fact that virtually no-one knew what the ramifications were indicates that it was a technical notification only – that is, they clearly weren’t intent on making very clear to users what was about to transpire. I just happened, on August 10th, to be the first one to say “Hey!” – and only because I was copied on a private thread of LinkedIn messages by one of my contacts. Smarter-than-me news outlets like ZDNet, and many bloggers, were obviously not informed about the change by LI – one wonders why? It couldn’t be about the potential advertising revenue, could it?? :>}

And that opens up an interesting debate, which I will leave for the comments. How much notification should a social platform company like this give, in advance of a significant change such as including you in third-party advertising? Is technical notification sufficient, or should there be more forthright and comprehensive disclosure? If the latter, in what form(s)?

And how has this incident shaped your perception of LinkedIn as a company?

The comments are yours!

UPDATE: In the midst of negative user reaction and a growing media firestorm, LinkedIn has decided to make a change in the policy. That’s a step in the right direction!

UPDATE: LinkedIn Listens, Reconsiders

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Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

10 Responses to LinkedIn, Privacy, and Notification – Let’s Discuss!

  1. Pingback: A Box You Want to Uncheck on LinkedIn « Connection Agent

  2. Michael Turner says:

    “How much notification should a social platform company like this give, in advance of a significant change such as including you in third-party advertising?”

    Maybe it depends on the change and who gets effected by it? The default, however, seems obvious: since LinkedIn sends me e-mail all the time about things I mostly don’t care much about, why couldn’t it send me e-mail about this? Like, a *month* in advance? Then a week in advance, if I haven’t unclicked that box yet? How about a list of things I’ve endorsed, so that I can click boxes selectively?

    I really wish they’d open up their decision processes about privacy (although, of course, the very act of exposure would change their behavior.) Because I don’t understand how they make decisions about privacy policies. Do they not have a clue? Or do they have clues, but decide to simply try things to see if their clues are pointing in the right direction? If it was really the latter, an experiment, it doesn’t seem to have worked out well for them.

  3. Derek says:

    I hate to burst your bubble when you say that you were responsible for breaking this story on August 10th and that it flew under the radar by major tech outlets, but here is a post from Techcrunch (arguably the largest and best known tech news source) back in June.

    http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/23/linkedin-to-leverage-user-follows-and-recommendations-in-new-social-ad-formats/

    Looks like they beat you to it :)

  4. Pingback: LinkedIn Listens, Reconsiders « Connection Agent

  5. Jim Lehmer says:

    I concur with Michael Turner. Email seems like a reasonable and effective way to clearly communicate the change. I get privacy notice updates via snail mail all the time from the various companies with whom I do business. I think for a pure online player like LinkedIn, an email is analogous, costs them little, and gives them more air cover than “Hey! We posted it in our blog!”

    But of course, they did this on purpose. They WANTED it to go unnoticed.

  6. Pingback: LinkedIn tips, tricks, techniques and resource links « Barrie Byron's blog

  7. Gail Gardner says:

    You still have to opt out per the instructions in the previous post here. If they really wanted to make a change they would have made it opt in instead.

  8. Ron Healy says:

    My own thoughts on how/when users should be notified are quite simple and I’ll put them in a slightly different context…

    1. When LinkedIn was recently made available on FlipChart, they told me about it, personally*, to my email address. Their email was clear, concise, informative and referred me to a link for further info.

    2. When a website or App *really* wants to get my attention, they use a new splash screen or landing page that I must visit, perhaps click a button before proceeding.

    The point: if they *want* to tell us something, they can. I believe they should be required to tell us the other stuff in the same way – clear, concise, informative communications with links for further info and delivered in a way that users cannot avoid (bit could ignore, if they so choose)

    * I use the term ‘personally’, although it’s about as personal as vaguely recognizing someone you pass in a busy street

  9. valmullally says:

    Thanks for warning us! Really makes me sceptical about a social media tool I thought we could trust.

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