LinkedIn Policy Compromises User Security: Check Your Settings

LinkedIn Privacy Breach: Disable Social Sharing

 

LinkedIn, the biggest business social network, has some privacy breach issues of its own and we’ll admit to being more than a little irritated. We wrote yesterday about some Facebook settings of which users were unaware that could potentially leave your browser unprotected and/or make your phone contacts accessible and figured I’d start a new by day talking about a disturbing breach of privacy on the part of LinkedIn.

A default setting called “Social Sharing” allows LinkedIn to pair an advertiser’s message with social content from a LinkedIn user’s network – in order to tailor the ad more closely to the audience. Ever notice how if you’re a female CEO, ads pop up when you’re on LinkedIn specifically tailored to … well, you guessed, it, things that might appeal to a female CEO.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in my name or face showing up in an ad without someone first asking my permission to use my face in an ad, and second, paying me to do so. Think I’m kidding … check it out:

LinkedIn Privacy Setting Problem: Social Sharing

How Do I Fix This?

I know – you want to know how to change this. The good thing, it’s pretty easy. Go to Settings, then Account, then under Privacy Controls, select Manage Social Advertising. Make sure that box that, as a default setting that’s a little gift to you by LinkedIn, is NOT checked. Be sure to Save your changes and you’re good to go.

This Stuff Isn’t New

We saw this back in July of 2009, when it the NY Times reported that ads on Facebook were appearing without user knowledge or consent because they were automatically opted in as a result of Facebook’s Terms of Service — obviously written to protect Facebook and not Facebook users.

I remember it at the time because it was funny – in an OMG kind of way. A man noticed his wife’s picture appearing in an ad for a dating service. The ad was created by third party application developer, using the Facebook API that they had made available. And Facebook, as usual, didn’t seem to much care.

We’ve come to expect crap like this from Facebook – they’re pretty blatant about not caring about users, user privacy and the like. But it was surprising to discover this lack of respect for user privacy on LinkedIn. Go ahead, call me naïve. It would be warranted.

The issue is that LinkedIn automatically (and without permission) opts you into things like “Social Sharing” without any kind of notification. If you don’t know enough to dig deeply into these privacy settings, it could mean that your data might ultimately be compromised by a rogue developer or hacker. Or, it might mean that your mug shows up in third party advertising somewhere, without your knowledge. Either way, that stinks.

LinkedIn Should Know Better

It’s no secret that I like LinkedIn. I use it all the time and regularly recommend and train our clients on using LinkedIn for a variety of business uses (if you’re a LinkedIn user too and if you want to, connect with me). Additionally, I pay LinkedIn for a professional account. As such, I expect more from LinkedIn, the least of which some assurance about the security of my information, and the opportunity to opt in – or out – of data sharing. What users like me don’t expect is shenanigans like this.

Bottom line, be careful. Know that LinkedIn has a developer network and an API, so who’s to know what information they might make available if you don’t know about – and change – these settings.

LinkedIn API – What Info Is Available?

And, in case you’re wondering, the kinds of things that developers can get from the LinkedIn API include, but aren’t limited to the following kind of data:

    • Member’s profile;
    • Information about that member’s network
    • Information about companies
    • Suggestions to companies to follow
    • Member Messaging

Sound like data you’d like to know is at least a little bit protected? For me, it sure is. For spammers, accessing data that belongs to others is a game. It’s like a puzzle. And working their way through a puzzle is what they do. Really, really well.

This is a backdoor tactic that LinkedIn should be ashamed of. As a public company now, they owe it to their users to do a better job of protecting the information that they trust the social network with. What do you think? Am I overreacting or does it hack you off a little, too?

  • http://overtonecomm.blogspot.com Kami Watson Huyse

    Okay, I was going to write this post today, but you did it for me. So, I will just promote yours.
    As a marketer, these social ads are really seductive, as a human being, I find them intrusive and abusive. I am a little disappointed with LinkedIn, to be honest.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Kami. (sorry I beat you to it). I agree re seductive value here … but also agree that as a human, and a user of the LI platform, I’d like for them to ask my permission. Like you, I’m quite disappointed.

  • http://thedudedean.com/ TheDudeDean

    You have successfully updated your social advertising settings #in

  • http://twitter.com/smallbiztrends Anita Campbell

    Thanks — very helpful instructions.  I never realized there was this default setting.  I don’t want anyone using my image in their advertising without permission!

  • Anonymous

    Great tip on social advertising ! Just changed my settings :)

  • Anonymous

    Great tip on social advertising ! Just changed my settings :)

  • SherriS

    Thank you for the “tip”, Shelly. And you are right, shame on LinkedIn for making this the default as this is a site/service I pay for.

  • SherriS

    Thank you for the “tip”, Shelly. And you are right, shame on LinkedIn for making this the default as this is a site/service I pay for.

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  • Anonymous

    You’re welcome, Sherri. Thanks for coming by.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent :))

  • Anonymous

    :))

  • http://twitter.com/jennyarnez Jenny Arnez

    Thank you for sharing this, Shelly. I had no idea.

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  • http://www.iroc2.org Richard

    Great information here. This type of contextual
    advertising is pretty common practice. In fact I spent unknown thousands
    in client marketing budgets as an interactive marketer in an effort to
    boost their CPA. Unfortunately this is a reality
    in the digital world that will not go away (part of the pros and cons
    of the internet, and seen differently whether or not you are the
    advertiser or the unsuspecting digital user). It is surprising a pay
    service would permit this and I will certainly be looking into that with
    my contacts, however we must remember that, in cases of facebook,
    myspace, etc, we are using free space in the global village and
    unfortunately, when our “rent” is free our “landlords” will take
    advantage. Once again why it is SO important for all of us to practice
    and teach – Public and Permanent. If we are not prepared for our
    content to show up anywhere at anytime, – and trust me i am not ok with
    this, especially as a father – we probably shouldn’t (digitally) create
    it. This is a HUGE reason why I traded 12 years of interactive
    marketing for a profession in communicating digital responsibility and
    accountability . Keep up the great posts here – without information we
    can’t make informed decisions. Cheers!

  • http://stevelevine.posterous.com/ Steve Levine

    LinkedIn has a lot of nerve to default to these settings!  As a long time, power user of the service, I am outraged!!

  • Anonymous

    Steve, I understand. I do have to commend LinkedIn, however, for addressing this issue right away. They posted a blog comment yesterday, acknowledging concerns and making a change to their policy. That’s a huge step in the right direction – and certainly more than we’re used to from Facebook and other platforms.

  • Anonymous

    Steve, I understand. I do have to commend LinkedIn, however, for addressing this issue right away. They posted a blog comment yesterday, acknowledging concerns and making a change to their policy. That’s a huge step in the right direction – and certainly more than we’re used to from Facebook and other platforms.

  • Anonymous

    Well said, Richard. And good things for all of us to remember. And also the reason we write posts like this — hopefully more information leads to more informed decisions. And — for the record, any time you’d like to write a guest post on the topic of digital responsibility and accountability, you’re welcome here!

    Thanks for coming by – and for the insight!

  • Anonymous

    You’re welcome!

  • http://stevelevine.posterous.com/ Steve Levine

    Shelly, I agree about Facebook and have called them out many a time. With that said, I’ve come to expect more from LinkedIn and it would be nicer to see action rather than speak. 

  • http://twitter.com/jmitchem Jim Mitchem

    Here’s the deal – no, no advertiser should use something like an image or personal information about anyone they haven’t paid (or asked) to sell their product/service. That’s unethical. However, using personal information to make ads more relevant is exactly what I do want. It’s exactly why I let them use anything. I’d much rather have advertising that’s relevant, than not. Since opting out of advertising altogether is probably not going to happen, and even if you could, these great ‘free’ social sites have to pay their bills some way. 

  • Anonymous

    Jim, in theory, I agree. Sometimes. But LinkedIn is a well monetized social networking site, and while I have no problem with them serving up my name with regard to relevant content, I want to know they’re doing it. That’s all. I do tons of corporate training on LinkedIn and am very knowledgeable about the platform – and even I didn’t know about this setting.

    That’s my beef. Let me decide – and let me opt in if I want to. And therein lies the problem.

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  • Linda Kinsman

    Thank you for not only alerting me to this and for the step by step fix!

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  • Shelly Kramer

    You’re most welcome, Linda!

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