LinkedIn Clarifies Policies on Social Ads

LinkedIn went into damage-control mode to try to quell the controversy over its recent launch of social ads, which took a page from the Facebook playbook and used the names, photos, and activities of members of the professional networking site in advertising.

LinkedIn went into damage-control mode to try to quell the controversy over its recent launch of social ads, which took a page from the Facebook playbook and used the names, photos, and activities of members of the professional networking site in advertising.

When LinkedIn announced changes to its privacy policy in June, social ads were part of the revamp, and the announcement stated:

In order to deliver relevant and valuable ads to you and your network, LinkedIn may use your name and profile photo in connection with social advertising based on content shared on LinkedIn. This advertising may include the fact that you have recommended or endorsed a product or service on LinkedIn, followed a company, joined Groups or conversations, and established or added content to your profile.

LinkedIn users were automatically included in the initiative, but they were given the option of opting out. However, the social ads campaign still raised red flags.

Director of product management Ryan Roslansky addressed the issue in a post on the LinkedIn Blog:

In early June, we announced changes to our privacy policy — including the new ad format’s opt-out policy — ahead of the first small test of these social ads. We also reiterated the same during the launch of social ads, explaining how members could opt out of sharing their recommendations with their network. For those members who may have not read this on our blog, we included a banner ad on the site that contained a link to the new documents, including a summary of the changes, and links from which all members could easily access their account settings.

We never share personal information with third-party advertisers. That was true prior to the launch of the social ads test, and it remains true today. The only information that is used in social ads is information that is already publicly available and viewable by anyone in your network.

Most important, we made it easy for our members to opt out of inclusion from all social ads with one click. On each member’s Accounts and Settings page, the first option under Privacy Controls (under the “Account” tab) is “Manage Social Advertising.”

Our core guiding value is “Members First.” And with regards to the social ads we’ve been testing, we’re listening to our members. We could have communicated our intentions — to provide more value and relevancy to our members — more clearly.

Most important, what we’ve learned now is that even though our members are happy to have their actions, such as recommendations, be viewable by their network as a public action, some of those same members may not be comfortable with the use of their names and photos associated with those actions used in ads served to their network.