Thursday, August 11, 2011

LinkedBook - or just InYourFace?

A lot of us have come to expect, if not completely accept, that Facebook will farm out their users data to advertisers faster than a crop-crazy Farmville aficionado, given half the chance and a way to slide it into some New and Improved User Preferences. LinkedIn, that quasi-professional counterpart in the major social media arena, has seemed less inclined to stoop to such unprofessional tactics.

Until now.

I don’t much appreciate the irony that only recently did I decide to go ahead and share my one and only photo on Linkedin. Being somewhat camera-shy, I was careful to make sure it was shared only with those already in my network. Granted, anything posted on the intarwebs is out there for all to see if they really know how to find it. That doesn’t mean I want my social networking venue furtively taping my image to the cyber-walls as they see fit for fun and profit (it's bad enough that I just gave people I actually know tacit permission to do so). It doesn’t mean I’m automatically agreeing to be affiliate advertising fodder, either.

Considering that one of the main things people do on LinkedIn is business related networking, the ramifications of having your profile information and/or your photos affiliated (bad pun absolutely intended) with advertising you may or may not want to endorse - or you may or may not even feel is appropriate - are potentially more than simply annoying or embarrassing. LinkedIn promises you'll be connected to ads "related" to content you have publicly endorsed. The problem is, the term "related" is open to a lot of interpretation, and the further down the chain it goes, the more (mis)interpreted it can get, especially if that interpretation is being done by marketing algorithms. I'm sure we've all gotten search results sprinkled with suggestions that were pretty well removed from what we were actually looking for. I've definitely gotten "You might also like" suggestions that I definitely would NOT want to "like", not even on Facebook. Most certainly not on LinkedIn.

The delivery method leaves a bit to be desired, as well. Opt outs are, IMHO, all too often underhanded tactics used to get people to consent to, or even purchase, services and goods they would otherwise avoid, given full disclosure. I suppose I shouldn't complain. A good part of my income comes from cleaning bloatware off computers where the user wasn't careful enough to opt out of everything but what they intended to install. Still, both from a consumer advocate perspective, and a LinkedIn user perspective, this is one option I couldn't opt out of fast enough.

Before you decide this is yet another privacy-tempest-in-a-teapot, you might want to let your imagination run a little wild on how your endorsement of streaming cable TV could ultimately wind up being represented. Some of that late night programming might not be the kind of fare you want paired with a personal photograph...or, then again, it might (and if it is, you probably should at least make sure your photo is "appropriately" flattering...*cough*). Then you can decide if you want to opt out of LinkedIns latest offering - or not.

Update: Attitudes can result in adjustments.

It's nice to know the noble motivation comes back to that ubiquitous excuse of "delivering useful ads" . Personally, I've never yet had an ad delivered that I found useful. I suppose it could happen someday, but I'd still rather not find myself making a surprise appearance in one.


  1. I've always been amazed by people who thought they would make their fortune on the internet. Especially the Rubes thinking they'll make a load of money by posting a stupid video on YouTube... and most likely that video keeps them from ever getting a job.

  2. Have you seen this yet?

    I have SO got to get me one of those. LOL