On June 16, 2011, LinkedIn made certain changes to its privacy policy which are causing quite a stir, both in the media and among LinkedIn users (a summary of these changes can be found here). Of prime concern to its users is the fact that LinkedIn has unilaterally permitted itself to use personal information to “create and distribute advertising relevant to the (user’s) or the (user’s) networks’ LinkedIn experience”.

By way of example, LinkedIn states that “when you recommend a product, follow a company, establish or update your profile, join a group, etc., LinkedIn may use these actions to create social advertisements for your network on LinkedIn using your profile photo and name.”

And here’s the part which is causing the most discontent; LinkedIn has given itself the right to use its users’ personal information in this manner as a default setting. Users who do not wish to concede this right to LinkedIn must explicitly opt-out of the provision by visiting here.

Certain commentators in Europe, such as the EU Data Protection Working Party, have already flagged that this change may violate European regulations, due to the fact that it was effected without first obtaining users’ explicit consent.

In Canada, to our knowledge, the privacy commissioner has yet to make a pronouncement regarding these changes. However, given that the commissioner has in the past voiced concerns in relation to similar practices employed by Facebook (see PIPEDA Case Summary #2009-008 here, in particular paragraphs 130-139), a complaint may be lodged shortly. We will continue to monitor ongoing developments so that it will be difficult for LinkedIn to opt-out of our ongoing concerns.