Sneaky LinkedIn is Using Member Profiles for Advertising

Monday, July 25, 2011



When was the last time you checked your LinkedIn settings?

Business Insider's Nick Hughes has a revealing writeup today which demonstrates that professional social network LinkedIn is using member profiles, images and activity in a social network advertising campaign without first getting the permission of individual members.

Hughes reports that he "discovered this little secret today and want to make sure you are aware of it. LinkedIn is automatically opting you into their social advertising, and may be using your image and actions within advertising on their site. Yes, this is shocking to me."

If members login to your LinkedIn account, choose the "Settings" option in the drop-down menu in the upper right hand corner, then choose the "Accounts" and "Manage Social Advertising" options from the selection, they will be presented with the following message:

"LinkedIn may sometimes pair an advertiser's message with social content from LinkedIn's network in order to make the ad more relevant. When LinkedIn members recommend people and services, follow companies, or take other actions, their name/photo may show up in related ads shown to you. Conversely, when you take these actions on LinkedIn, your name/photo may show up in related ads shown to LinkedIn members. By providing social context, we make it easy for our members to learn about products and services that the LinkedIn network is interacting with."

Below the message is a checkbox - automatically enabled as a LinkedIn default setting - which states:

"LinkedIn may use my name, photo in social advertising."

While there is nothing particularly malicious about allowing users to choose whether or not they want to participate in the program, there is something rather insidious about implementing such a program with little or no fanfare and setting the default to automatically grant permission regardless of whether or not a member is inclined to participate.

For the most part, users consider this a "set and forget" mechanism, and to surreptitiously engage members in an advertising campaign by way of a default setting is thoroughly disingenuous.

Facebook similarly engaged in the same kind of privacy shenanigans with the global roll out of the facial recognition feature earlier this year that is designed to automatically recognize faces in photos submitted by members and make "tagging suggestions" without user permission to do so.

Users have the ability to opt out of the facial recognition feature, but for those who are unaware that it even exists, they will find that they have already granted permission to participate by way of a default setting.

The issue boils down to this: Should users have to constantly monitor their privacy settings to make sure that the social networks they belong to don't try to pull a fast one and "sneak" in a default setting that the user would be opposed to?

Hughes sums it up well by stating: "Have I been under a rock or did I miss this announcement? Shouldn't we have a say in this type of activity before they default it checked? Anyone else know of this? Pass this onto others so they can take precautions to preserve their privacy."


Possibly Related Articles:
Privacy Advertising Web Application Security Social Media Headlines Accounts LinkedIn Default Settings
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