Opting out of the Social Media Opt-Ins

As social media increasing pervades every aspect of modern life, and the bouSocial Mediandary between work and home becomes ever more blurred, employers need to be alert for the subtle changes in social media that may have a not so subtle impact on their businesses.  Following on from the Facebook facial recognition software issue, which argueably had a more significant social rather than business impact, comes LinkedIn’s latest update.

It seems, from the commentary which has been gaining momentum on various blogs and security sites, that approximately 2 months ago LinkedIn updated its privacy policy.  Nothing unusual in that, perhaps save for the length of the privacy policy in question, which one commentator cites as running to 6400 words (and no, we haven’t checked it), but the impact of the tweaks are significant.  One of the key features, as was the case with Facebook’s facial recognition technology, is that the most significant update operates on an on-by-default basis;

The effect of the update is that ordinary users of LinkedIn, (some of whom are not necessarily IT savvy) into inadvertent brand cheerleaders – as their names and photo’s pop up in related advertising!  LinkedIn say, “LinkedIn may sometimes pair an advertiser’s message with social content from LinkedIn’s network in order to make the ad more relevant. When LinkedIn members recommend people and services, follow companies, or take other actions, their name/photo may show up in related ads shown to you. Conversely, when you take these actions on LinkedIn, your name/photo may show up in related ads shown to LinkedIn members. By providing social context, we make it easy for our members to learn about products and services that the LinkedIn network is interacting with.”

According to the Naked Security blog from US IT firm Sophos, it seems that the effect of this is that LinkedIn will “mine your usage habits to determine what products and services you’re are interested in, and then use your name and photo in what amounts to an endorsement for those products and services when they’re advertised to other users”.

All well and good in practice, until an employee’s personal endorsement / preferences cause them to “advertise” for competitors of their employer!

Yet another reason for employers to amend Social Media and IT Monitoring Policies.