LinkedIn Backtracks on Controversial Ads

Users' photos, info were used in site ads

While Facebook seems to be in constant hot water for alleged privacy violations, fellow social network LinkedIn has largely managed to steer clear of negative buzz. But after launching an advertising initiative that exploited its users’ information, LinkedIn is backtracking, reports The Wall Street Journal.

In late June, the site began testing “social ads” that displayed users’ profile pictures and shared their public actions, like following companies or making recommendations. LinkedIn announced the ads on its blog and banner ads throughout the site, and also told users how to opt out, since members were automatically included unless they specified otherwise.

It seems most users didn’t notice the new ads at first, but several weeks after their debut, people began complaining about the privacy implications of the ad scheme. On Thursday, the company told users that their photos would no longer be used in the ads. New ads will instead display the number of a user’s connections who either follow or recommended a product or company.

LinkedIn’s head of marketing solution products, Ryan Roslansky, defended the company on its official blog, saying that users’ personal information hadn’t been shared with third-party advertisers. “The only information that [was] used in social ads is information that is already publicly available and viewable by anyone in your network,” he explained.

But he also admitted that the company hadn’t handled the problem as well as it might have. “We could have communicated our intentions . . . more clearly,” he wrote.