The following is a Quora post answering the question, “Does LinkedIn Sell Your Info?”
This is likely to fall into a semantics question. If data is employed in the aggregate and your personally identifiable information is not disclosed, then I would argue that your information is not sold. Likewise, if you are presented an ad because your LinkedIn profile conforms with a target audience definition, your data is also not being sold.
I can’t answer for LinkedIn Recruiter, but can answer in the Sales and Marketing context.
LinkedIn offers a sales product called Sales Navigator. Users can view company and contact information on Navigator just as they can on the free service. It even supports viewing this data within third-party SNAP products. However, Navigator and SNAP are view only. Sales reps cannot download your profile or sync it with any of their partner platforms. They also restrict display of your email and phone information to your direct connects as well as other content you flag as restricted.
LinkedIn Marketing sells advertising on LinkedIn and Bing based upon your profile attributes. Advertisers define their target audience across a broad set of firmographic, career, and location variables, but these segments are not provided directly to the marketer. Instead, they are used for advertising display. Thus, your data isn’t sold, just your eyeballs.
LinkedIn treats its member’s data with respect. Microsoft, its parent company, has called for a US version of GDPR, the European data privacy standard. CEO Satya Nadella stated that “privacy is a fundamental human right” on an April 2018 earnings call and said that the firm has implemented an “end-to-end privacy architecture” which is GDPR compliant.
While the change is pro-privacy and consistent with GDPR, TechCrunch took a negative view of the new setting.
A win for privacy on LinkedIn could be a big loss for businesses, recruiters and anyone else expecting to be able to export the email addresses of their connections.…[The new option] could prevent some spam, and protect users who didn’t realize anyone who they’re connected to could download their email address into a giant spreadsheet. But the launch of this new setting without warning or even a formal announcement could piss off users who’d invested tons of time into the professional networking site in hopes of contacting their connections outside of it…
On a social network like Facebook, barring email exports makes more sense. But on LinkedIn’s professional network, where people are purposefully connecting with those they don’t know, and where exporting has always been allowed, making the change silently seems surreptitious. Perhaps LinkedIn didn’t want to bring attention to the fact it was allowing your email address to be slurped up by anyone you’re connected with, given the current media climate of intense scrutiny regarding privacy in social tech. But trying to hide a change that’s massively impactful to businesses that rely on LinkedIn could erode the trust of its core users.
TechCrunch overstates the loss. Member control their data, not LinkedIn or LinkedIn connections. Second, there are multiple ways to reach users from within LinkedIn including InMail, messaging, and PointDrive. Unless the email is blocked on the profile, connections still have access to emails from within LinkedIn. Finally, most emails in LinkedIn are personal emails, not business emails (an issue they should address by allowing both and setting privacy and messaging rules around multiple emails), so reaching out to individuals on their emails only makes sense for friends, family, and recruiters on LinkedIn, not businesspeople networking with colleagues and clients.
While LinkedIn wasn’t transparent about the privacy change, it enhanced the privacy of its members. As such, looking for nefarious reasons for the enhancement is a reach.
Speaking to Jim Cramer onMad Money, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff argued that for technology companies, the key value is no longer the great idea, but trust:
In technology over the last two decades, the most important thing has been the idea. That is, the best idea wins. That has been what gets you funded, that’s how you grow your company, that’s been your highest value: the best idea wins. No longer true.
The current highest value is trust, and if trust is not your highest value, if the most important thing to you and your company is not trust, you need to look again, and that’s what’s happening with these companies today.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff
Benioff observed that a lack of trust is eroding Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook. “Their executives are walking out, employees are walking out,and that happens with a lot of companies in tech right now. We’ve had a lot of walkouts this quarter. And the reason why is because it’s kind of amessage to the executives: it’s time to transform.”
“Every company has to hold themselves to a new level of trust, and if your brand is not about trust, you’re going to have customer issues, and you can see that in that brand,” observed Benioff.
And trust has long been part of Salesforce’s value proposition. The firm emphasizes it’s 1:1:1 philanthropy program (Donating 1% of technology, people, and resources) which has been adopted as a model by other companies. Salesforce also promotes local nonprofits at Salesforce events, emphasizes Trailhead and meetups for skills advancement, embraced a San Francisco tech company tax to address homelessness, called for a US GDPR to protect privacy, raised womens’ wages to address a pay equity gap following a self-audit, and spoke out against anti-gay legislation. Under a short-term profit-maximization model, these activities make little sense, but under a longer-term stakeholder’s approach, they make perfect sense.
Trust is based on a stakeholders approach to corporate governance. It recognizes that Milton Friedman’s stance against social responsibility (“there is one and only one social responsibility of business to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays in the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition, without deception or fraud.”) is wrong. A stakeholders approach recognizes that employees, customers, partners, investors, and the general public all place value on companies that take a long-term view of their role in society. Simple profit maximization is a short-term approach which fails to recognize that you can’t attract the best employees or close multi-million dollar deals if you are not trusted.
And you can see this in the stock price growth of Facebook and Salesforce over the past five years. Facebook’s stock price outpaced Salesforce for the past five years, but once Facebook lost trust, its stock price declined.
Speaking at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC), Apple CEO Tim Cook forcefully called for expanded global privacy protections akin to GDPR:
Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency. These scraps of data, each one harmless enough on its own, are carefully assembled, synthesized, traded and sold. Taken to the extreme this process creates an enduring digital profile and lets companies know you better than you may know yourself. Your profile is a bunch of algorithms that serve up increasingly extreme content, pounding our harmless preferences into harm…
We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance…
We should celebrate the transformative work of the European institutions tasked with the successful implementation of the GDPR. We also celebrate the new steps taken, not only here in Europe but around the world — in Singapore, Japan, Brazil, New Zealand. In many more nations regulators are asking tough questions — and crafting effective reform.
It is time for the rest of the world, including my home country, to follow your lead.
We see vividly, painfully how technology can harm, rather than help. [Some platforms] magnify our worst human tendencies… deepen divisions, incite violence and even undermine our shared sense or what is true or false.
This crisis is real. Those of us who believe in technology’s potential for good must not shrink from this moment…
They may say to you our companies can never achieve technology’s true potential if there were strengthened privacy regulations. But this notion isn’t just wrong it is destructive — technology’s potential is and always must be rooted in the faith people have in it. In the optimism and the creativity that stirs the hearts of individuals. In its promise and capacity to make the world a better place.
It’s time to face facts. We will never achieve technology’s true potential without the full faith and confidence of the people who use it.
He also warned about the dangers of AI which fails to protect privacy:
Artificial intelligence is one area I think a lot about. At its core this technology promises to learn from people individually to benefit us all. But advancing AI by collecting huge personal profiles is laziness, not efficiency.
For artificial intelligence to be truly smart it must respect human values — including privacy. If we get this wrong, the dangers are profound. We can achieve both great artificial intelligence and great privacy standards. It is not only a possibility — it is a responsibility…
Yesterday, Cook tweeted that privacy is a human right
based upon four principals:
Data Minimization – Personal data collection should be minimized or de-identified.
Transparency – Individuals have the right to know what is being collected and for what purpose.
Right to Access – “data belongs to users” with personal data available to individuals for copying, correcting, and deleting.
Right to security – “security is foundational to trust and all other privacy rights”
Facebook dropped 20% in one day as the ongoing news about their misuse of personal data began to hit their bottom line a few weeks ago. Here is a guerilla protest campaign in London which encapsulates their issues:
The problem at Facebook is that they forgot that they were there for their members not their advertisers. The idea was free content (news, fake news, and social), no editorial review, and monetization of the data exhaust from their platform.
When that happened, truth and privacy became irrelevant. They can whitewash their actions and pretend that the problems are exogenous to their company, but hiring editors is only the beginning of excising the rot that rests at the center of Facebook’s business model.
Yesterday, I presented a discussion of Legitimate Interest as the basis of GDPR communications. For B2B companies in the UK, the 2003 PECR (The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003) law is often applicable when assessing GDPR and Data Privacy:
GDPR and Data Privacy under UK PECR and Non-PECR scenarios (Source: Rhetorik)
The PECR discusses soft opt-ins for individuals, sole traders and some partnerships, but not B2B. The ICO states that “the term ‘soft opt-in’ is sometimes used to describe the rule about existing customers. The idea is that if an individual bought something from you recently, gave you their details, and did not opt out of marketing messages, they are probably happy to receive marketing from you about similar products or services even if they haven’t specifically consented. However, you must have given them a clear chance to opt out – both when you first collected their details, and in every message you send. The soft opt-in rule means you may be able to email or text your own customers, but it does not apply to prospective customers or new contacts.”
Legitimate Interest also applies to data licensing relationships and marketing partnerships. If personal data interest is maintained for a specific purpose (e.g. Technology Sales), data licensing and sharing needs to be kept within the original scope.
Legitimate Interest and Consent also apply within a company. Data maintained for one product line may not be usable for others, particularly if the firm spans multiple sectors.
The UK Direct Marketing Association published guidance on the subject of Legitimate Interest helping make sense of Article 6.1.f:
“Processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of personal data, in particular where the data subject is a child.”
And Recital 47:
“The legitimate interests of a controller, including those of a controller to which the Personal Data may be disclosed, or of a third party, may provide a legal basis for processing, provided that the interests or the fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject are not overriding, taking into consideration the reasonable expectations of data subjects based on their relationship with the controller.”
Once the basis of holding personal data is met, companies have additional conditions to meet around transparency (notification and the right to object), data minimization (Is there a legitimate interest in collecting all of the fields? How long is data retained?), and reasonable expectation (limited impact to personal and private life; ensuring data accuracy).
For individuals who opt out, firms must retain suppression lists to prevent the re-collection of personal information. The suppression list should be the minimal information required to ensure the individual is not added back into the marketing database at a later date. With B2B, the list may simply be name and email.
The GDPR also sets out expectations which are relationship specific:
LinkedIn is now the number two social media platform by usage, advertising spend, ROI and analytics tools. Facebook remains number one. “While LinkedIn is often considered a hub for job hunters and corporate recruiters, the platform has also shifted to position itself as a marketing engine in recent years,” said Jerry Ascierto, executive editor of The Social Shake-Up Show. “The recent updates to its ad platform and UI seem to be encouraging brands to increase spend. As a result, more companies are experiencing better ROI from this network than others considered more popular and ‘fun,’ such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.”
LinkedIn has benefited from a native video feature that was launched last year and was recently extended to company pages.
LinkedIn’s last official member count was 546 million global professional profiles.
Microsoft Chairman John Thompson said that the LinkedIn acquisition has been “wildly successful” and that Microsoft would be “all in” on a similar deal. Of particular interest are firms that would help connect users to the Microsoft cloud.
Thomson was critical of firms that share or sell user data. “Many of them make money off ads and they have used that as kind of a leverage point,” Thomson told Bloomberg. “At Microsoft, we don’t believe in that.”
While Facebook has taken a series of hits on its sharing of member data, LinkedIn has long protected member data (for example, Sales Navigator does not permit the uploading of member information to CRMs but makes it available for display). What’s more, Microsoft has built GDPR compliance into its product line and set it as a global standard.
LinkedIn celebrated its 15th anniversary last month. “15 years ago, we launched LinkedIn in Reid Hoffman’s living room with the tagline ‘relationships matter’,” said VP of Product Strategy Allen Blue. “I’m proud to say that this mantra still rings true today in both the halls of LinkedIn and on the platform. While the world of work has evolved immensely — be it the tools and products we use, the ways we communicate, and even the jobs themselves — our need to connect with one another to be productive in our careers remains at the core of all we do.”
A few weeks ago, I wrote about enterprise software vendors calling for an American version of GDPR with Microsoft announcing that it was building GDPR into its global product line as its standard privacy protocol.
On the Salesforce earnings call last week, CEO Marc Benioff observed that the software industry has been going through a “crisis of trust for the past six months” related to privacy and data ownership:
“From the European perspective the way they look at data is data belongs to you, it’s your data. Now for us at Salesforce, we understand that. We’ve had that position from the beginning. Our customers’ data belongs to them, it’s their data. I think in some cases, the companies that are start-ups and next generation technologies here in San Francisco, they think that data is theirs. I think the Europeans with GDPR have really flipped the coin, especially in advertising but in another areas saying hey, this data belongs to the consumer or to the customers, you guys have to pivot back to the consumer, you have to pivot back to the customer.”
Benioff once again called for a US privacy law similar to GDPR which provides “guardrails” around trust and safety. “This is going to help our industry,” said Benioff. ”It’s going to provide the ability for the customers to interact with great next generation technologies in a safe way.”
Benioff also warned that when AI technologies are indistinguishable from humans, trust will also be an issue.
It is less than 36 hours until GDPR becomes the law of the land in the EU Zone. As the regulation has extra-territorial privacy requirements, non EU companies, even those without a physical presence in the EU, are subject to its requirements with respect to communications with EU citizens and management of their data.
The US has a much weaker set of laws and there is concern that US firms are laggards with respect to compliance. However, a number of US technology firms have called for adoption of a US GDPR.
On Monday, Microsoft once again reiterated its belief that “privacy is a fundamental human right” and announced that GDPR will be their privacy standard globally.
“As people live more of their lives online and depend more on technology to operate their businesses, engage with friends and family, pursue opportunities, and manage their health and finances, the protection of this right is becoming more important than ever.”
Julie Brill, Microsoft Corporate VP & Deputy General Counsel
Companies, therefore, have a “huge responsibility” to protect and safeguard personal data.
Since GDPR was enacted in 2016, Microsoft has dedicated 1,600 engineers towards compliance. “GDPR compliance is deeply ingrained in the culture at Microsoft and embedded in the processes and practices that are at the heart of how we build and deliver products and services,” said Brill.
She noted, however, that GDPR is a “complex regulatory framework” subject to “ongoing interpretation” by regulators and feedback from customers. As such, the firm will “determine the steps that we all will need to take to maintain compliance.”
As a provider of corporate infrastructure, Microsoft views GDPR as an opportunity to differentiate itself and assist its customers with compliance on the Microsoft Cloud. “One of our most important goals is to help businesses become trusted stewards of their customers’ data,” said Brill. “This is why we offer a robust set of tools and services for GDPR compliance that are backed up by contractual commitments. For most companies, it will simply be more efficient and less expensive to host their data in the Microsoft Cloud where we can help them protect their customers’ data and maintain GDPR compliance.”
Salesforce and SugarCRM have also taken a strong position on GDPR calling for similar legislation in the US. “What we need is a national privacy law, and that will really not just protect the tech industry; it’s going to protect all the consumers,” said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
This is not a new position for Salesforce. Back in 2014, Benioff said, “I’m all in favor of consumers having more power and more control over their data. As a consumer, you should have all of the rights. It’s like a cloud Bill of Rights. As a consumer or as an enterprise, you should have the right to be forgotten or to add or take away your data.”
As part of its compliance, the firm named their Senior VP of Global Privacy and Product Legal Lindsey Finch as their new Data Protection Officer. Finch has been with Salesforce for a decade with previous stints at GE (Privacy Counsel), the Federal Trade Commission, and Homeland Security.
“The official DPO designation is a natural outgrowth of our existing programme. My team and I will continue to partner across the company to foster a culture of privacy – designing, implementing, and ensuring compliance with our global privacy programme, including ensuring that privacy is considered throughout the product development lifecycle,” said Finch. “The top theme I’m hearing is that our customers are using the GDPR as an opportunity to focus on their privacy practices and putting their customers—oftentimes end-consumers—at the center of their businesses. The GDPR is a complex law, but putting the individuals to whom the personal data relates at the forefront, and focusing on their expectations and preferences, is a great starting point for compliance with the GDPR and other privacy laws.”
Finch described Salesforce’s approach to GDPR compliance:
“We started by kicking off a thorough review to ensure compliance across the company. The GDPR is an incredibly rich document—99 articles and 173 recitals across 88 pages! Our Privacy team broke this down into key principles and worked closely with our Technology & Products organization to review our compliance. We found that we were already in a really great place,
Since then, a lot of the work we’ve been doing has been to document how our customers can use our services to comply with some of the key GDPR principles, which we’ve published on our GDPR website. There is no finish line when it comes to GDPR compliance. While Salesforce currently offers the tools for our customers to comply with the GDPR, we will continue to release new innovations that help our customers achieve compliance success.”
Salesforce CMO Simon Mulcahy echoed Benioff and Finch at the Salesforce World Tour event in London last week. Mulcahy stated that many companies simply view GDPR as a compliance issue and nuisance, not an opportunity to align company interests with customer desires. “It is a compliance issue, but it’s also a phenomenal opportunity to give your customers what they want. What they want is to know that when they give you their data, you’re looking after it appropriately.”
“Benioff is right that we will need some regulation and I can’t see how we can set two standards–EU and US–so we’ll likely need to adopt what the EU has done or risk chaos. This also fits well into the narrative of the information utility. GDPR is another driver sending us toward utility formation for the information industry.”
Dennis Pombriant, Principal Beagle Research
Larry Augustin, CEO of SugarCRM noted that firms have been lax in their privacy and cyber security processes saying that self-regulation has proven to be insufficient with “too many incidents.”
“Data privacy issues are not going to go away. People are thinking a lot here now about GDPR, because Facebook, Twitter, and all of these issues keep coming. And Experian in the US, about managing personal information related to credit card data… there’s just a constant barrage of issues around data privacy and personal information,” continued Augustin. “Everyone has to address it, whether it’s in the context of GDPR or the next thing that’s going to come along. There is definitely a heightened awareness and interest.”
SugarCRM has built a data privacy manager into its CRM as a “command center” for the data privacy officer.
In my discussions with clients. they all admit to the regulations being a muddle that initially adds risk to their business models. The penalties are draconian, but the compliance requirements are ambiguous, particularly for B2B firms. As such, we are likely to be hearing about issues concerning GDPR compliance requirements over the next few years.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella digressed from standard earnings call topics two weeks ago to discuss the importance of ethics, privacy, and cybersecurity. While he did not provide a specific reason for the digression, the Facebook hearings and impending GDPR implementation were likely motivators.
Nadella noted that the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge are “tremendous opportunities” for Microsoft customers, but that it is critical that both Microsoft and its customers “ensure trust in technology” across three dimensions: privacy, cybersecurity, and ethics. Nadella argued that “privacy is a fundamental human right” and that the firm has implemented an “end-to-end privacy architecture” which is GDPR compliant.
“For customers, we will provide robust tools backed by our contractual commitments to help them comply with GDPR,” said Nadella. “In fact, for most customers it will be more effective and less costly to host their data in Microsoft’s GDPR-compliant cloud than to develop and maintain GDPR compliance tools themselves.”
With respect to cybersecurity, the company spearheaded a coalition of 34 global tech and security companies for the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, “an important first step by the industry to help create a safer and more secure online environment for everyone.”
Nadella also announced the establishment of an AI and Ethics in Engineering and Research Committee at Microsoft “to ensure we always advance AI in an ethical and responsible way to benefit our customers and the broader society. This includes new investments in technology to detect and address bias in AI systems. Microsoft stands for trust, and this will continue to be a differentiating focus for us moving forward.”
Up until recently, information technology and social media have been viewed as social goods with few drawbacks, but now that we are all tied into the social communications fabric, we are beginning to worry about the dark side of such connectivity whether it be job losses through automation, the stripping away of privacy, the vulnerability of our networks to hacks, or the undermining of objective truth and democratic systems.
One step towards addressing these problems is the GDPR Chief Privacy Officer requirement with its focus on privacy and cybersecurity. At most companies, this role is likely to be one of compliance, not ethics or broader social questions. At a few, however, this role may grow beyond mere compliance and begin to address the broader social and economic issues posed by information technology.