In general, the changes revolve around new features that are intended to increase profile visibility and make it easier for users to share and connect with each other. LinkedIn permits users to opt in or out of these features to accommodate individual privacy preferences.
Perhaps the most notable change is that LinkedIn now permits certain third-party services, including email, contacts, and calendar apps, to make a user’s profile visible to LinkedIn users. The goal of this feature is to make profiles easier to find and foster more connections between users.
For example, imagine you receive an email at work from a person you don’t know. This new feature would allow your email provider to show you information from the sender’s LinkedIn profile so that you can see where they work, what they do, and connect with them if desired. You can opt out of this feature entirely or specify what information will be shared from your profile.
Another new feature will allow LinkedIn to search for and suggest public accomplishments that a user may want to add to the profile. For example, if a user publishes an article, LinkedIn may generate a suggestion for the author to add it to the user’s LinkedIn profile’s list of publications and share it with the user’s network. Users can opt out if they don’t want to receive these recommendations.
One feature that requires an opt in is the new productivity bot that works as an automated messaging assistant. For example, the messaging assistant may propose “smart replies” to messages a user receives by scanning the text of the message to infer a relevant response. This feature will not operate unless the user affirmatively chooses to add it.
Finally, LinkedIn members outside the U.S. should take note that they will now be governed by Irish law (instead of California law) and can seek to settle their disputes in Irish courts.
Overall, LinkedIn’s new Terms of Service support features that are intended to increase the networking value provided by LinkedIn to its users. Readers may wish to take this opportunity to look at their own privacy settings and consider whether to opt in or out of certain features. Spend a moment considering what types of information to share, and how widely to share it. Taking ownership of online privacy is an important part of maintaining a social media presence, regardless of which platforms are used, or which privacy settings are selected.
In many cases, the benefits of sharing information online may outweigh privacy concerns, for instance by allowing recruiters to view employment history and send job opportunities through LinkedIn. Individuals will of course have varying levels of tolerance when it comes to the tradeoff between privacy and utility.
For a platform like LinkedIn, focused primarily on professional networking as opposed to personal use, it can be helpful for users to consider the intended audience and the type of information contained in the profile. Given the increasing overlap between professional and personal online presences, consider whether privacy preferences are platform-specific.
Employers also have a stake in how their employees use and share information on LinkedIn. Some companies pay for premium services to enhance their employees’ use of LinkedIn, and will want to ensure their employees are using the services appropriately. But even companies that don’t spend extra on premium features have an interest in maintaining consistent and professional use of LinkedIn by their employees.
Establishing guidelines for employee use of LinkedIn is important not only from a corporate branding perspective, but also from an intellectual property perspective. For example, an engineer may want to bolster his profile by sharing some representative experiences – but in doing so, may unwittingly disclose company trade secrets. Companies should be proactive in educating their employees about how information is shared on LinkedIn.
We encourage LinkedIn users to read these policies in full to gain a better understanding of what information is collected by the site and the ways it will be shared. The same can be said for other social media platforms as well. A crucial first step to protecting online privacy is being well-informed about the permissions each account holder is giving, and staying up to date as policies change over time. Companies whose employees use LinkedIn should also be aware of these issues and periodically revise their social media policies to account for changes to each platform’s Terms of Service.