guest blogIs LinkedIn Set to Become the Next Big Data Broker?

As some readers may be aware, LinkedIn, the popular business-oriented social media platform, has recently updated its Privacy Policy and User Agreement to address, among other things, its data collection, use and sharing policies.  An e-mail was sent to current LinkedIn users on September 27, 2014 informing them of these changes, which will go into effect on October 23, 2014.

It is not a coincidence that LinkedIn decided to update its privacy and data collection policies given that Facebook and Google each updated their respective User Agreements and Privacy Policies earlier this year.  Both Facebook and Google’s updated policies essentially allow them to share (sell) their user’s personal information with (to) third parties. These updates have been widely panned as an attempt to further monetize the companies’ vast informational capital.  Such criticism is well-founded, as both Google and Facebook have recorded large revenue gains since their respective data usage updates have been implemented.

Some commentators have highlighted LinkedIn’s new user tools, limited user content licenses and relaxed indemnity (liability) provisions to suggest that the updates to LinkedIn’s Privacy Policy and User Agreement are meant solely to benefit consumers.  While this is true to a certain extent, it should also come as no surprise that, as a publicly traded company, LinkedIn is in the business of making money.  It is not so easy to maintain its stock price’s exceptional performance when over 90% of LinkedIn’s 313 million+ users do not choose to pay for the premium version of the social media platform.  When carefully analyzed, it becomes apparent that LinkedIn’s updated Privacy Policy and User Agreement were designed to allow it to play a bigger role in the data brokering industry. Specifically, the updated data policies authorize LinkedIn to: 1) track user activity both on and off the LinkedIn website, unless the user specifically opts-out; 2) review “InMail” messages between users (direct e-mail messages sent via LinkedIn’s internal messaging system); 3) use personal contact information for ad targeting; 4) use automatic scanning devices to monitor user in boxes; and 5) share user posts with advertisers.  All of these “updates” give LinkedIn more control over its data collection, use and sharing practices.

While it is undoubtedly true that LinkedIn’s updated Privacy Policy and User Agreement are less invasive than those of either Google or Facebook, it would be naïve to suggest that LinkedIn is not positioning itself to better monetize the information collected from its users.

The material contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, nor is it a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.  Each situation is unique, and you should not act or rely on any information contained herein without seeking the advice of an experienced attorney.

davidkleinDavid O. Klein is the managing partner of Klein Moynihan Turco LLP in New York, NY, where he practices Internet marketing law. If you are in need of legal advice/assistance in connection with a prospective Internet marketing campaign, he would be happy to speak with you.  Please contact David O. Klein at 212.246.0900 or via e-mail at

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