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”.
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?