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Hastings Blawg

Look out for "import your address book," on Linkedin and similar pop-ups on other apps. A recent settlement outlines the new marketing strategy for Linkedin's data use.

Taylor Hastings

Linkedin settled a lawsuit for over $13 million in a class action grounded on their alleged use of users’ email contacts it obtained from the “Add Connections” feature in its service. The high amount serves as a vindication of privacy rights yet also belies hidden dangers still existing with respect to its continued inconspicuous attempts to obtain permission to use such information.

Ross Todd reported on the story on June 12, 2015 in The Recorder found here.

Linkedin allegedly took email contacts from its users through Linkedin’s “Add Connections” feature and then sent the contacts invitations to join Linkedin without the users’ consent to contact them. The company allegedly would send the emails as if the invitation was from the user to increase the persuasive power of the invite. Linkedin, on the other hand, argued that the users agreed to allow Linkedin to send the email invite when the users agreed to the privacy policy and terms of service prior to signing up for the service.

In addition to the high monetary amount, Linkedin agreed to revamp its user permission process for the use of contact information, including its promise to implement a new screen that will display “import your address book,” if a user elects to use the service mentioned above.

Is that enough?

Linkedin will continue to comb through the data and use it for marketing purposes should users elect to import their address book. While it might seem far-fetched that too many people would agree to allow Linkedin to import an entire contact book, it’s not. Linkedin relies on the user’s flippant disregard for the fine print while using its service. No one spends the time to read thoroughly through the Terms and Conditions. No one spends the time to read thoroughly through its privacy policy. It’s probably not too much to expect users to click the permission in order to get to the next screen and begin using the connector service.

Is this a commonly used strategy?

Yes. Linkedin is not the only one. Many apps will have the same pop-up screen that will display similar Terms of Service at the similarly substantial risk to the privacy of your contacts. We all quickly agree without realizing to what we actually agreed. Make sure it’s a choice and use caution when signing up for services because it can possibly grant the company permission to use a broad swath of your data for marketing purposes with little recourse available in defense.