Comment: LinkedIn’s learning policy violates the privacy of library users


In summary

Greg Lucas and Erin Berman, California State Library: A policy adopted by LinkedIn Learning, requires patrons to share their personal information in order to access a library resource. This violates all possible definitions of privacy and makes it antithetical to the values ​​at the heart of what libraries and librarians stand for. No wonder the American Library Association was concerned about LinkedIn Learning’s terms of service.


By Greg Lucas and Erin Berman, Special for CalMatters

Greg Lucas is the California State Librarian, [email protected] Erin Berman is Division Director at the Alameda County Library and Chair of the Privacy Subcommittee of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the American Library Association, [email protected] They wrote this review for CalMatters.

One of the reasons communities place such great trust in their libraries is the privacy and confidentiality provided to all who use their services.

Ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of library users is fundamental to the functioning of all libraries. All over. It is an article of faith among librarians.

Like many other states, California has enshrined these protections in law:

“All user records of a library financed in whole or in part by public funds must remain confidential and must not be disclosed by a public body or private actor who keeps or stores the records of use of the library. users on behalf of a public body, for any person, local agency or state agency.

But protecting someone else’s privacy, let alone our own, is difficult in an age of frantic sharing on social media, not-so-impregnable firewalls, and marketers keen to target their products better. .

Most sellers of physical or digital information to libraries respect the primacy of user privacy. To maintain the trust of the community, library vendors should adhere to the same code of ethics that librarians use every day.

Currently, LinkedIn, the online business and employment service purchased by Microsoft in 2016 for $ 26.2 billion, is in violation of this code of ethics and the policies set out by the American Library Association.

LinkedIn is creating new usage guidelines for people in libraries who want to access LinkedIn Learning, formerly Lynda.com, an online learning platform that LinkedIn acquired for $ 1.5 billion in 2015.

Currently, when Lynda.com is accessed through a library, a user logs in with their library card and a PIN. No other personal information is required.

Under the new LinkedIn Learning policy, library users would be required to create a personal, publicly searchable profile and agree to LinkedIn’s User Agreement and Privacy Policy before they can use LinkedIn Learning.

Checking the User Agreement gives LinkedIn the power to share information in a personal profile with whomever LinkedIn wishes.

Representatives from libraries across the country met with LinkedIn, urging them to respect the privacy rights of library users. To date, LinkedIn has refused to do so, stating that the requirement to create a LinkedIn profile is a security measure to prevent fraudulent access to LinkedIn content.

These new accounts will be subjected to an artificial intelligence tool that will determine if a person is a real user, says LinkedIn.

This removes the authority of libraries to authenticate who is a real user or not.

When asked why a public social media profile was the only option for authenticating users, LinkedIn told libraries that the “library market” was not a large enough revenue stream to justify the creation of a personalized solution.

Conclusion: The new policy adopted by LinkedIn Learning requires users to share their personal information in order to access a library resource.

This violates all possible definitions of privacy and makes it antithetical to the values ​​at the heart of what libraries and librarians stand for. No wonder the American Library Association has expressed concern on the LinkedIn Learning Terms of Service.

Hopefully, LinkedIn Learning will change its policy to respect the privacy of library users. Until then, the California State Library and one growing number of libraries across the country, respectfully encourage the use of information resources at public libraries that do not display clients’ personally identifiable information and keep their use of the library safe from unreasonable intrusion or surveillance.

Grfor example, Lucas is the California State Librarian, [email protected] Erin Berman is Division Director at the Alameda County Library and Chair of the Privacy Subcommittee of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the American Library Association, [email protected]. They wrote this review for CalMatters.


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