As LinkedIn Learning subsumes Lynda.com, library groups raise privacy concerns


Editor’s Note: This story was updated on July 24 with new information from the American Library Association and LinkedIn.


Libraries have long been enthusiastic subscribers to Lynda.com, providing their clients with access to the fledgling company’s collection of educational videos on a range of topics. But this week, library groups urged their members to stop using the service if the company, now owned by LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, makes planned changes to Lynda.com that will require library users to create a LinkedIn profile to access the service.

LinkedIn officials say the change is part of a long-planned integration of Lynda.com videos into the rest of the services it offers through LinkedIn Learning. A spokesperson for the company also said this was done for security reasons, as the current system that many libraries use to verify identities with library cards is likely to be “compromised by bots.” .

The American Library Association said in a declaration Monday that the planned changes to Lynda.com, which are expected to occur by the end of September 2019, “would significantly infringe the privacy rights of library users.” On the same day, the California State Library advised that its users interrupt Lynda.com when it merges completely with LinkedIn Learning if it institutes the changes.

“Currently, to access Lynda.com in a library, a person logs in using their library card and PIN. No other personal information is required, ”California State Librarian Greg Lucas said in the statement. “Under the new name of LinkedIn Learning, library patrons would be required to create a personal profile and agree to LinkedIn’s terms of service and privacy policy before they can use LinkedIn Learning. By accepting the Terms of Service and the Privacy Policy, the user cedes to LinkedIn the authority to share the information contained in a user profile with whomever LinkedIn wishes.

Library groups argue that by forcing users to create LinkedIn accounts to watch Lynda’s videos, the company is moving from tracking privacy and identity best practices to being able to ask libraries violate a series of codes of ethics that they are committed to upholding. The ALA Libraries Bill of Rights, for example, states that: “All people, regardless of their background, age, background or opinions, have the right to privacy and confidentiality in their use of the library. Libraries must defend, inform and protect the privacy of individuals, protecting all library usage data, including personally identifiable information.

In an interview, Lucas, the California State Librarian, said the biggest problem with the new approach is that library patrons are essentially forced to become LinkedIn customers and provide personal information to the company. . While individual internet users all the time agree to click-sharing agreements to get free services in exchange for personal data, he says libraries have so far refused to force their customers into such agreements. He described maintaining user trust as “serious business,” adding, “If you don’t draw a line somewhere, you’re constantly in the background. “

The change will not impact most college and university libraries or businesses using Lynda.com services, which will not be required to force users to create a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn officials say it’s because colleges and businesses have more robust ways of identifying users than public libraries.

LinkedIn Learning posted a blog post in June by Mike Derezin, vice president of learning solutions at LinkedIn, who presented the changes on Lynda.com as a benefit for library users, as they will have access to more content through LinkedIn Learning than through Lynda .com alone.

“We recognize this is a change for both librarians and their clients,” Derezin wrote, adding that the company is committed to protecting member data. He said library users, like all LinkedIn users, have the option of setting their profile to “private mode,” which would keep information hidden from the search engine.

This is not enough to satisfy library group managers, who point out that LinkedIn profiles are public by default and that creating a profile requires library users to agree to the company’s terms of service.

In an interview on Tuesday, Andrea Roberts, spokesperson for LinkedIn Learning, said that while the company listens to comments from libraries, “at this point we have no plans to change that.”

“We are in the process of doing a full migration from Lynda to LinkedIn Learning,” she added. “It’s been part of our business from the start that we were going to migrate from Lynda to LinkedIn Learning. “

She added that the current system used by libraries to verify identities with library cards only was likely to be “compromised by bots” and therefore posed a security risk.

LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com in 2015 for $ 1.5 billion. The following June, Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $ 26.2 billion, the company’s largest acquisition ever.

Erin Berman, librarian at the Alameda County Library in California who heads an intellectual freedom committee for the American Library Association, said she had met with LinkedIn officials to push the issue and explain the position of libraries. But she found the company’s response to be largely dismissive. She said many other vendors work with libraries without complaining about the security concerns LinkedIn has raised.

“I would love to see LinkedIn change its policy and create a solution that works for libraries,” she said. “I have not received any indication that this will happen.”

Berman said about 40 libraries have committed to abandon the service unless the company changes its planned approach.


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