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LinkedIn slammed for opt-out setting which could erode user privacy

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LinkedIn users are being urged to contact the company to complain after it was revealed that a change in privacy policy now allows third-party advertisers to harvest users' profile information and pictures in their ads by default.

Blogger Steve Woodruff appears to have been the first to notice the changes to LinkedIn's Terms of Use, which force users to manually untick a box in the Manage Social Advertising section of their privacy controls.

Paul Ducklin, Sophos head of technology in Asia Pacific, suggested that LinkedIn is making the same mistake as Facebook with its much-maligned decision to make face recognition functionality opt-out.

"Crudely put, LinkedIn will mine your usage habits to determine what products and services you're 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," he said.

"This feature is opt-out, even though it reduces your privacy and infers your goodwill, and wasn't part of LinkedIn's service when many current users signed up."

Ducklin urged LinkedIn subscribers to complain via the abuse@linkedin.com email address, as well as turning off the option in question.

LinkedIn has been criticised in the past for providing cyber criminals with a treasure trove of personal information with which to launch phishing and other socially engineered attacks.

Users will now be hoping that today's news is not an indication that the site will make privacy mistakes more commonly associated with Facebook.

In response, LinkedIn argued that it flagged up the changes to its Terms of Use several times when they were introduced in June, explaining how users could opt-out.

"In addition, as LinkedIn does with all changes to its User Agreement and Privacy Policy, we notified our members of the changes to these documents via a banner displayed to when they logged in to their account," it added.

"This banner contained a link to the new documents, including a summary of the changes and links from which our members could easily access their account settings. "

 

11 Aug 2011

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