LinkedIn may have broken Dutch law

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Social networking site LinkedIn may have breached Dutch privacy law with a recent change it made in its members' profile settings. The Dutch Data Protection Authority (CBP) says LinkedIn should have asked its users to give their explicit consent to the use of their portraits as illustration material in its advertising.

Instead, the networking site has done exactly the opposite. A recent change in LinkedIn's Terms of Use states that the company may use members' profile photos for advertising purposes, unless the member forbids such use; a practice known as 'opt-out'.

A CPB spokesperson told online magazine Webwereld that default settings on social websites should be "privacy-friendly", in other words, LinkedIn should have offered its users an 'opt-in': members' portraits will not be used unless the member gives explicit consent.

EU criticism
The Dutch privacy watchdog's view is shared by an EU Data Protection Working Party, which recently presented a definition of "consent" that is widely accepted. Even though the definition is considered too narrow by some critics, lawyers agree that LinkedIn is in clear breach of the opt-in rule.

Lawyer Milica Antic told Webwereld magazine that LinkedIn has put its foot wrong twice over: by offering an opt-out instead of an opt-in, and by failing to properly inform its users about the change in the terms of use. However, LinkedIn claims it ran a banner announcing the change, but Ms Antic says that neither she nor anyone she spoke to ever saw the banner. 

Apart from a posting on its company blog, LinkedIn has not reacted to the privacy concerns expressed by critics. 


© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

EU Data Protection Working Party on "consent"

Webwereld article (Google translation)

LinkedIn company blog