Monday, 30 January 2012

Getting into a lather over LinkedIn?

We data protection folk can be so busy worrying about other people’s privacy that we totally forget to think about our own.

Who, for example (in their right minds) actually reads the “we have changed our privacy policy” blurb which is spewed out each time a data controller changes their practices? And how do we know if we’ve missed anything serious?

This is where the blogosphere, with its notorious internal networks of friends and colleagues, can really shine. What concerns one person can very quickly concern lots of other people.

Today, for example, I was sent an email from the ever vigilant (and oh so brilliant) Pascale Gelly, pointing out that “Without attracting too much publicity, LinkedIn has updated their privacy conditions. Without any action from your side, LinkedIn is now permitted to use your name and picture in any of their advertisements.”

Whoops, I missed that one. On the other hand, if my name and picture sells sufficient quantities of dog food, or whatever else I am supposed to be endorsing, is this really such an invasion of my privacy? I do try to take care when I am on line, and I do what I can to obscure my digital vapour trails whenever my cursor accidentally clicks on a site that some folk might find alarming (or amusing).

But then again, I thought to myself, I can’t make myself aware of everything that happens around and about me. My life is too full already. I can’t take any more in. My mind already hurts (and plays tricks on me). The last thing I really want to do is spend more time in front of a screen, reading about data protection stuff. I do this for a living. Surely, I don’t have to do it as a private citizen too, do I? I shrug my shoulders with mock despair. After all, if we can’t be bothered to do it ourselves, and we actually know about the consequences of remaining digitally vigilant, then the great unwashed has no chance at all of keeping up to speed with things that data controllers think matters.

Accordingly, based on my own personal experience, I really don’t think that the European Commission’s cunning plan of encouraging European citizens to consent to more stuff is going to work. They can’t consent to what they can’t understand or can’t be bothered to read, or simply don’t have the time to read. It’s a brilliant example of a policy initiative that looks great in theory and turns out to be unworkable in practice.

So perhaps we need not blame LinkedIn.

Perhaps I can offer LinkedIn a special deal. Can I be a celebrity ambassador, and be paid decent money to have my image associated with products and services that the producers of those products and services will want me to be associated with?

Anyway, for those among us (not me) who wish to opt out of this new LinkedIn practice, Pascale tells me that all that needs to be done is:

• Place the cursor on your name at the top right corner of the screen. From the small pull down menu that appears, select "settings"
• Then click "Account" on the left/bottom
• In the column next to Account, select the option "Manage Social Advertising"
• Finally un-tick the box "LinkedIn may use my name and photo in social advertising"
• and Save

With thanks to the amazing Pascale Gelly for the news