Last Friday, I received two identical emails from LinkedIn contacts informing me about changes in the privacy conditions of LinkedIn. Without user consent, LinkedIn is now allowed to use names and pictures of the users in advertisements. Users can revoke the permission in a simple way (see below). However, what LinkedIn has done raises the question whether the providers of today’s social networks never will learn their privacy lessons.
LinkedIn once again has shown the fundamental misunderstanding of social network providers, that all data therein is their data. However, it is the data of the users, not of the social network. There are some upcoming approaches like personal.com which change that paradigm and give users control over their data. Changing privacy policies in a way like LinkedIn just shows that they probably never will understand this.
But even when you look at what LinkedIn has done from a business perspective, it doesn’t really make sense. What is the value of using the names and pictures of users in advertisements? I don’t believe that it is a really big value. However, changing privacy policies without informing users and without asking for consent automatically has led to a lot of negative reactions, like mails LinkedIn users are sending to their contacts to inform them about this change or like press articles and blogs. To me it appears that the negative impact is far bigger than the positive outcome of that change.
LinkedIn has successfully managed to change its image from being a fairly serious network for business professionals to being just another bad guy like Facebook and the others. Maybe they will learn from the reaction of their users, but, I doubt that. It looks like the classical social networks which build their value on the understanding that everything we enter is automatically theirs, won’t ever learn that lesson. At least not until other concepts become sufficiently successful to drive them out of the market. But then it might be too late.
To change the privacy settings use the following steps:
1. Place the cursor on your name at the top right corner of the screen. From the small pull down menu that appears, select "Settings"
2. Then click "Account" on the left/bottom
3. In the column next to Account, select the option "Manage Social Advertising"
4. Finally un-tick the box "LinkedIn may use my name and photo in social advertising"
5. and Save
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