The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: LinkedIn’s new terms

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: LinkedIn’s new terms 1024 565 Greer Hahn

We’ve squared up to LinkedIn’s new Terms of Service and cast our beady eyes over their updated Privacy Policy. Now it’s time for some straight shooting. Here’s what you need to know:

The Good

LinkedIn has made a big push to win back user trust with their updated terms (after all, nothing sharpens the focus quite so much as privacy lawsuits and claims of illegal data use.) But back to the good stuff: At half the length and twice the readability of the previous version, this latest effort is to be applauded. What’s more, they’ve limited the scope of their copyright licence for the better – effectively it now ends when you delete content or your account. More transparency wins come in the form of a high rating in EFF’s Who’s Got Your Back 2014 report – LinkedIn makes it clear to users what standards and rules law enforcement must follow when they seek access to sensitive user data and will also inform users about data requests from governments.  Good.

They also expressly state, “We do not rent or sell personal information that you have not posted on our Services, except as described in this Privacy Policy.” and “We do not share your personal information with any third-party advertisers or ad networks for advertising without your separate permission.” and at first glance, these sound like good things….but wait…(cue the narrowing of eyes.)

The Bad

…’Personal Information’ you say? Here’s why this point has a foot in both good and bad camps as we see it (and resulted in an amber rating on our ToS review).

Think of it this way, there are almost 2 databases at play here: one containing all your profile information – ‘personal information’ you might call it – and one containing a vast amount of data generated from the actions you perform on LinkedIn – who you connect to, what groups you join, who you recommend, how many times you post and so on. It’s this generated data that gives LinkedIn its real value. They can use this data to sell premium and paid for services to companies and recruiters.

Now when you combine that generated data with what profile information YOU make public through your settings choices, plus all the data gathered by cookies and web beacons that YOU don’t choose to opt out of …well, it’s not exactly hard to figure out the ‘who’ behind those actions – your IP address, location, the type of device you use, what websites you visit are doing a lot of talking and sharing on your behalf. In short, LinkedIn doesn’t need to sell your ‘personal information’ expressly to monetize their service. Oh, but they do have a right to use your profile information to help target the service to you on other platforms they own – like SlideShare for example. So there’s that.

The Ugly

Finally, things get a little messy and uh, ugly, for LinkedIn and their users when it comes to their rather exhausting list of Do’s and Don’ts. In an effort to protect the service from those looking to exploit the information for commercial advantage, the legal wording, if adhered to strictly(!) will see us all breaking the terms of service over the smallest of infringements.

A good example: you cannot “copy profiles and information of others through any means,” including manually. So don’t even think about using LinkedIn to check how to spell someone’s name correctly, or their job title, even if the profile is public, then write it down on a scrap of paper! Or how about this one: you cannot “Use LinkedIn invitations to send messages to people who don’t know you or who are unlikely to recognize you as a known contact.” Good luck complying with that one recruiters (who represent the largest group of LinkedIn’s paying customers!)

Our overall verdict? LinkedIn’s moving in the right direction….but there’s still a way to go.

Check out the Privacy section on our iOS app for full details of these new changes and vote for what you think is reasonable or unreasonable.

Picture credit: Thom

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