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LinkedIn Changes a Primer in Responsible Data Use – at a Relevant Time

LinkedIn_paperwomanLinkedIn may be increasing in its membership base, but the social network is pruning the ways it uses its member data. Based on my own five principles for data use, this is a good thing.

The 313 million-member website on Oct. 23 will change its terms of service, including its privacy policy. According to a notification LinkedIn sent me on Oct. 3, these changes will include a narrowing of terms, giving members more control of their information.

“The language in our previous Terms of Service asked for broad rights to use your content, but in practice, we didn’t exercise all of these rights because it didn’t always seem like a ‘members first’ thing to do,” LinkedIn stated on the company blog. “Therefore, some of the rights in the new Terms of Service have been narrowed to better reflect our long-standing practices.”

Among the clearly written updates: Members continue to own all the content they post; once a member deletes an item, LinkedIn’s right to that information ends; and LinkedIn does not license or sell member content.

LinkedIn’s changes may be feeding a broader trend. They follow the launch of the advertisement-free social network Ello, which does not capture or share any user data. Ello has been dubbed the “anti-Facebook,” which is actually a marketable platform these days. LinkedIn, meanwhile, is promising transparency and simplicity, spelling out the terms in language that is easy to understand; not legalese.

As I read through LinkedIn’s key updates, I compared them with my own five principles for responsible data use, outlined in my book “The Loyalty Leap.” Pretty much across the board, they adhere:

Be transparent and reasonable: The rationale for this is clear. When organizations explain their intentions for data use in straightforward language, while also spelling out the benefits to the customer, that customer is more likely to engage with the brand.

Give consumers a choice: As LinkedIn demonstrates, member-first organizations let consumers choose how to share their information. This democratization of control is significant today as consumers grow increasingly savvy, and critical, about data use. Further, control leads to buy-in: LoyaltyOne’s AIR MILES Reward Program is permission based, and 99.99 percent of our customers opt to share their information with us for the purposes of targeted marketing.

Respect and protect data: Companies that want to resonate should collect only the data they need, use it only as promised and retain it only as long as needed. Along the way, they should avoid personal “creepy” areas such as financial information or questions about children. Lastly, they should always destroy data with care. LinkedIn’s approach to dealing with customer data extends the metaphor by allowing members to eliminate certain data elements themselves.

Monitor frequency: Consumers are overwhelmed by too much information, so why add to it? By making sure emails are not too frequent, while being responsive to the customers’ needs, a company can stand apart and above its competitors.

Deliver mutual value: Smart companies ensure the data they use delivers recognized value for the consumer as well as themselves. And by value, I do not simply mean the product, cash, points or coupons. I refer to creating something more powerful – relevancy.

Which is what LinkedIn’s changes are right now – relevant. By adjusting its policies and alerting the consumer now, LinkedIn is insulating its business as worthy competitors begin to arrive at the scene. It’s hard to deny that LinkedIn is taking the first good steps for ensuring longer-term loyalty.

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