From The Verge:
In a bid to grow its user base, LinkedIn “processed *hashed email addresses of approximately 18 million non-LinkedIn members,” and then used them to target those individuals with ads on Facebook.
*Hashing email addresses is pretty common in marketing (says lady with zero marketing experience). Say you use an email address to login to a social media site – hashing turns that into a 32-character code of sorts that loads up segments consisting of hashed values (ex: customer lists) and when they match with users, companies can bid for them and present an ad to that user.
So you’re content and rolling along in a blissfully resume-site-free life… just a-scrollin’ down your Facebook feed judging people from your comfy cubicle spot in accounts receivable… when suddenly you’re bombarded with ads making you wonder if you’re disconnected from the global workforce.
Are you maximizing your economic opportunities?
Are you being the most productive & successful you?
What is life anyway? What’s the point of it all? Oh God.
The source of your new inner turmoil? A plethora of well-placed LinkedIn ads. You don’t have your antennas up for a new job, you haven’t been looking or applying anywhere else, you like where you’re at (or at least you thought so?) so why are you being targeted & how did they get your info?
In a roundabout way the answer takes us over to the Emerald Isle.
It seems like tons of sites do this so in an effort to sort it out I went down a bit of an EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rabbit hole on this one and long story short – the European Union has tougher rules on consumer/user data usage to look out for people, & companies try to find the loopholes in those as best they can. For whatever reason, Ireland’s rules were more lax.
As new European data regs began to be implemented many companies moved their data processing operations there. This allowed companies like LinkedIn (owned by Microsoft) and Facebook to shirk legal liabilities when they took & used user info. (With more changes coming many are shifting back to the US now because we don’t have a comparable data protection framework to GDPR.)
At this point I’ll be honest – this is way out of my wheelhouse (no shit) (can’t wait to be techsplained) & I think I’m somewhat understanding what they did wrong but I’m woefully unaware of how my own information is used. I get Insta ads all the time for work pants that are sneakily made of sweatpants material so clearly The Gram knows I work at Barstool somehow.
Full disclosure – I don’t even care that much. The only real reason I went in on this particular story is that I’ve always had a cold spot for LinkedIn… I got excited & wanted to throw a little shade. In my experience it made me anxious seeing acquaintances being weird & inappropriate on there but not knowing them well enough to politely stop them, or people tooting their own horns 24/7, or a spew of inspirational posts from old pals who I think are into Ponzi schemes now?
For a little research I tried to login to my own LinkedIn but thankfully couldn’t remember what email or password I’d used to make it in the first place. Then I attempted to find it & couldn’t locate my profile at all so I’m guessing boxed wine & deleting my account went hand in hand at some point last year. Before that it looks like I had a pretty weird relationship with it anyways.
Perhaps it was more of a me problem all along but I like to this this news validates my vibes on it. Taking 18 MILLION people’s info against the rules & targeting them in an attempt to reel ‘em in… For shaaaame.
As watchdogs try to identify data processing security risks, enhance protection & raise awareness among staff (& users) of data protection rights there will be plenty of other LinkedIn-esque incidents like this. Hopefully the protection organizations step up & hold them accountable. LinkedIn sucks enough as it is. The last thing we need is to be reminded of it on the sites we hit up for leisure.