One of the core benefits LinkedIn sells to its members is security. Microsoft and LinkedIn have mostly steered clear of the privacy controversies that have hit Google and especially Facebook. However, there is no getting away from the fact that the network provides businesses with the largest enterprise database in the world.

While Microsoft has insisted that data remains open, and LinkedIn has followed by maintaining privacy for its users, what about non-users?

Interestingly, LinkedIn is being investigated for violating privacy of non-users by using their data. The obvious question is how the company can compromise data of people who don’t use the service. Well, LinkedIn users often grant access to their email contact books on the website.

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If you use Microsoft’s business network, you will be familiar with this ability. LinkedIn accesses your email contacts and even if those contacts are not members. Users can choose to invite contacts from their email client.

According to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, the company has been abusing this access to non-user emails. Specifically, LinkedIn is accused of processing data without consent by targeting people on Facebook.

Microsoft’s company is said to have processed 18 million hashed email addresses from non-users to encourage them to sign up to LinkedIn.

Problem Solved

It is worth noting two things. Firstly, LinkedIn still operates independently, so it is not clear if Microsoft was actively involved. It is likely this practise was happening before the company’s $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn in 2017.

Secondly, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner explains that the company worked with regulators and the situation has been “amicably resolved”.

“We appreciate the DPC’s 2017 investigation of a complaint about an advertising campaign and fully cooperated. Unfortunately, the strong processes and procedures we have in place were not followed and for that we are sorry. We’ve taken appropriate action and have improved the way we work to ensure that this will not happen again. During the audit, we also identified one further area where we could improve data privacy for non-members and we have voluntarily changed our practices as a result.”

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