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News

Privacy Changes At LinkedIn Links Social Content To Advertising

Sophos : 12 August, 2011  (Technical Article)
Sophos is warning users of business social networking site LinkedIn's new policy which reduces privacy levels for users
IT security firm Sophos is warning LinkedIn users about the implications of a recent update to the site's privacy policy.  Among the changes made by LinkedIn is a new, 'on-by-default' feature that mines usage habits to determine what products and services users are interested in, and uses actual names and photos of users in advertising on the site.

Sophos notes that, while LinkedIn did place a notification on its website of the changes, many may have missed the following paragraph in the site's revised 6,400 word privacy policy:

"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."

The change in policy is not going down well, with many LinkedIn users complaining online about the company's approach.  Sophos experts believe that LinkedIn's change reflects a growing trend amongst social networks to exploit users' information by putting the onus on users to "opt-out" of features rather than ask them to "opt-in".

"Unfortunately this is just the latest example of a social network introducing sensitive new policies without giving users the chance to say first whether they want to opt-in.  We're used to this from Facebook, and it's disappointing to see LinkedIn follow in their footsteps," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.  "This feature certainly wasn't available when many of LinkedIn's users first signed up for the service, and as the majority of people don't tend to check privacy settings after they've set up an account, many people won't even be aware that their image and name could be used in this fashion."

LinkedIn users can turn off the social advertising options by visiting their account settings, and disabling "Manage Social Advertising".
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