LinkedIn used 18 million non-user emails to buy targeted ads on Facebook
LinkedIn is one of the largest business-centric social media platforms in the world, but its user growth has started to taper off this past year. Investors shouldn’t be too worried; LinkedIn had a plan to bolster its user numbers. Too bad it involved the procurement of 18 million non-user email addresses.
In a report released Friday by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, it was discovered that LinkedIn admitted to using 18 million email addresses of people that were not members of the site as the basis for targeted Facebook ads. This obviously violates several privacy laws and flies in the face of GPDR, which forces European websites (or websites with a European operation) to disclose to users how their personal data is being used.
Further still, LinkedIn was found to have used data of its users to create algorithmically generated networks for its members. In other words, LinkedIn would automatically generate a network of related users without informing them as such, all by using personal data.
The Ireland DPC suggested that LinkedIn “cease pre-compute processing and… delete all personal data associated with such processing prior to 25 May 2018,” the date that GPDR went into effect. The “pre-compute processing” mentioned is the term the DPC used for the automatically generated networks.
Denis Kelleher, Head of Privacy for LinkedIn, responded to a request from TechCrunch with the following statement:
We appreciate the DPC’s 2017 investigation of a complaint about an advertising campaign and fully cooperated. Unfortunately, the strong processes and procedures we have in place were not followed and for that we are sorry. We’ve taken appropriate action, and have improved the way we work to ensure that this will not happen again. During the audit, we also identified one further area where we could improve data privacy for non-members and we have voluntarily changed our practices as a result.
Still in question is how LinkedIn obtained the 18 million non-user email addresses.
LinkedIn is just the latest in social media companies that have come under fire for misusing user data. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, was brought before Congress earlier this year to answer questions about how Facebook uses personal data for its business.