Libraries Oppose LinkedIn Learning Over Data Privacy

A conflict escalated this summer between LinkedIn and library communities in the United States. It involves recent changes to LinkedIn Learning, which was previously, the online learning platform launched by prolific author Lynda Weinman, offered hundreds of online courses covering a wide range of professional skills when it was purchased by LinkedIn for $ 1.5 billion in 2015 The site and its services are widely used by Americans. libraries, many of which offer their members access to the online learning platform.

LinkedIn Learning announces changes to login procedure

Everything was going well between the two sides until June, when LinkedIn announced plans to change the sign-in procedure to access courses. Previously, users could simply log in with their email and password. The company recently changed this feature to require users to create a LinkedIn profile to access LinkedIn Learning.

This did not suit many libraries and librarians. For many, this violates their data protection policies.

American Library Association Library Charter of Rights affirms that “All people, regardless of their origin, 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.

LinkedIn collects and monetizes user data through several different channels. These include general internal uses, such as compiling business and professional data, improving their platform, and marketing their premium services to users. LinkedIn also sells and targets advertisements to users based on portions of the data they provide to the platform.

Stakeholders at the library argue that by changing the way to sign in to LinkedIn Learning, the company is essentially requiring users to exchange their data for learning services.

Last week, the American Library Association (ALA) released a Press release ask the company to reconsider its measures.

“The requirement for LinkedIn Learning users to disclose personally identifiable information is completely contrary to ALA’s policies regarding library user privacy, and it may violate the library privacy laws of certain states,” said the ALA President Wanda Kay Brown in a statement. “It also violates the librarian’s ethical obligation to keep an individual’s use of library resources confidential. We are deeply concerned about these changes to the Terms of Service and urge LinkedIn and its owner, Microsoft, to reconsider their position on this matter.

California State Library went even further calling for a boycott of LinkedIn Learning. As California State Librarian Greg Lucas said in a statement, “The California State Library recommends that you no longer provide LinkedIn Learning in your library until the company changes its new usage policy to protect the privacy of library users.

LinkedIn: “[P]Protecting the trust and data of our members is our first priority and our guiding principle.

In a blog post preceding those two statements, LinkedIn said it made the changes, in part, “to authenticate that users are real people and further protect our members.”

The company insists that in order to create a profile, users only need to provide their first and last name as well as an email address. The company says users can also set their profile to “private mode,” which allows users to browse the platform without their data being shared with other users. Users can also set their profiles so that they do not appear in search engines.

There are other data privacy settings that can be changed, but the platform generally does not allow users to opt out of data collection. In their blog post, they insist that “Our commitment to you is that protect the trust and data of our members is our first priority and our guiding principle.

The company does not have the best data security track record. Irish Data Protection Commissioner found last november that the company violated their terms of confidentiality. They claimed the company used the emails of 18 million non-members to target them with ads on Facebook. The company has since stopped this practice.

Featured Image: The Santa Teresa branch library in San Jose, California. Pedro Xing.

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