/ Technology

On LinkedIn? Relieved by its u-turn on social ads?


First Facebook, now LinkedIn. It seems you can’t call yourself a social network unless you’re happy to undermine your members’ privacy. LinkedIn’s back-tracked from a feature that put your face in online ads.

LinkedIn, following in the footsteps of Facebook, launched a new feature in June that used its members’ names and photos in third-party ads – what it called “social ads”.

And in true social networking fashion, LinkedIn rolled out the feature without explicitly asking its members whether they wanted their name and photos splashed all over the ads you and your friends see on the site. It simply updated its privacy policy to include a clause saying it could do so.

LinkedIn back-tracks

A day after the mainstream press got hold of the story, and a growing privacy storm looked imminent, LinkedIn decided that maybe this wasn’t a good move after all. Your face will no longer be featured in its ads.

Which is probably for the best, since the Dutch weren’t too happy with LinkedIn’s behaviour. The Netherlands’ equivalent of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) suggested that LinkedIn could have been in breach of Dutch privacy laws. Members’ photographs can only be used in advertising material with their explicit consent, it said.

Facebook came under some flack last week after a German data protection expert claimed that its new facial recognition software was against EU privacy laws. Again, the issue is that this feature is being implemented without the user’s explicit consent.

What’s ICO doing?

The ICO has yet to suggest that Facebook and LinkedIn, with their “let’s launch a new feature and roll it out to all our users by default” attitude are violating UK data laws.

When asked whether LinkedIn’s original plan breached UK data legislation, an ICO spokesperson told us:

‘One of the principles of the Data Protection Act is that personal information should be processed fairly.

‘LinkedIn should ensure that any data it collects should be used in the manner that its users expect. If personal data is being passed on to a third-party or used in a way that users might not have expected, then this should be made clear to the user either when they sign up or when the changes are made.’

The ICO hasn’t been that militant over the last six months – according to its own website it’s only issued two fines during this time. Plus, it’s yet to tackle the likes of Google, Facebook and now LinkedIn.

Unfortunately, until it does, some may see the ICO as quite a bit weaker than its European counterparts, who appear far more fearless in protecting their citizens’ privacy.

Are you concerned about social networks, like LinkedIn, being able to roll-out features without your knowledge and consent? And should the UK’s data protection office take stricter action to make sure these sites don’t take our privacy for granted?


Opt-outs ? It all depends, if companies like linkedin and facebook were going to give £100 to anyone registered with them then I’d say no. But in the cases you’ve highlighted recently, then definitely they should be opt-ins. The ICO needs to grow a pair and sharpen their none existent teeth. Maybe sack the lot of them and employ Which to guard are rights ?

This allows them to use your name and picture in ads.

If you want to disable this feature, apply the following steps:

1. In the right corner, select ‘Settings’ under your name
2. Go to ‘Account’ and select ‘Manage Social Advertising’
3. Disable the box which states ‘LinkedIn may use my name & photo in social advertising’

I was invited by a professional colleague, when I saw what they did with my information – I deleted the entire account immediately, likewise my friends.

NO !

Chris Nicoll says:
22 August 2011

The ICO are definitely too lax and it is about time they protected the public from the assumption by organisations that we are happy to have our personal details used. I arranged a donation to the National Trust about 1 to 2 years ago for a society to which I belong and they registered me as a supporter in spite of me stating I was donationg on behalf of the society. Ever since (in spite of calling them and sending back an unsolicited donation form saying I wished my name to be removed from their records) they have sent me request for further donations.

Simon Evans says:
23 August 2011

The EU, ever mindful of our privacy because of Article 8 of the ECHR, has issued a privacy Directive which covers, in considerable detail, three main issues: transparency, legitimate purpose and proportionality. It also requires that each member state set up an agency to ensure the Directive is implemented. The UK has fallen behind other members here, most of which have taken the Directive very seriously. Which? ought to be banging the drum about this issue loudly, as much recent UK legislation runs counter to the principles of the Directive. The UK has also created systems that are not the result of any legislative direction. An example is the ACPO’s ANPR network, which appear to be illegal under Article 8, as it amounts to official spying on innocent citizens unsuspected of any crime (the proportionality issue).