LinkedIn gave third-party advertisers heightened access to user information by default, and users protested loudly and quickly. While the business-oriented social network acted immediately to answer the charges, the privacy issues remain, and possibly legal ones as well.

LinkedIn had made the upcoming changes known as far back as late June, with a pair of posts ("Privacy Policy Changes: More control over your LinkedIn information" and "Ads enhanced by the power of your network") on the official LinkedIn blog.

However, the actual extent of the changes was not fully understood until Wednesday, when 100 million LinkedIn users were automatically assumed to be taking part in the company's new advertising program by default (in other words, the feature was "opt-out").

Among other things, this meant that a LinkedIn user could be placed in an advertisement for a product -- including their profile picture, their name, and the names of their connections. And this also means that users have been opted-in to have third-party companies send them email.

A wave of protests has caused LinkedIn to rethink the policy change. In an official blog post called "Privacy, Advertising, and Putting Members First", LinkedIn's Ryan Roslansky writes "we hear you loud and clear."

Before actually describing any changes, Roslansky admonishes readers that the company did mention the changes in the blog post and a banner ad, and also asserts that handing out user photos and email addresses to third-party partners is no different than the user making their information available on their public profile...and users can always opt-out, after all.

The changes amount to replacing the individual pics with a group link (in other words, instead of three pictures, there will be a link that states "three people in your network" that a user can click to find out more).

As of this writing, the "opt-out" status is still in full effect for both the "Email Preferences --> Partner InMail' and "Account --> Manage Social Advertising" options on the settings page of LinkedIn profiles; users may want to verify their own privacy settings and opt out if they so desire.

Because it is "opt-out", legal experts are trying to determine if LinkedIn's policy change has broken any laws. For example, a spokesperson for the Dutch government's privacy agency told WebWereld "settings for social networking sites by default have to be set to the advantage of the user's privacy. Requiring users to opt out doesn't qualify as consent."

 

James Lee Phillips is a Senior Writer & Research Analyst for IBG.com. With offices in Dallas, Las Vegas, and New York, & London, IBG is quickly becoming the leading expert in Internet Marketing, Local Search, SEO, Website Development and Reputation Management. More information can be found at www.ibg.com. Dan Frishberg is The Money Man! He is an expert on investing, online stock trading worldwide and specializes in diversified portfolios.