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LinkedIn Faced Probe For Facebook Ads Targeting 18 mn Non-Members

It is still not clear how LinkedIn got hold of those 18 million email addresses

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LinkedIn faced probe for Facebook ads targeting 18 mn non-members. Pixabay

An investigation by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) found that LinkedIn had processed hashed email addresses of approximately 18 million non-LinkedIn members and targeted these individuals on Facebook without necessary permission, a new report has revealed.

The investigation covered the activities of the Microsoft-owned professional networking platform during the first six months of 2018, The Verge reported on Saturday.

In its report published on Friday, DPC said that it concluded its audit of LinkedIn Ireland Unlimited Company (LinkedIn) in respect of its processing of personal data following an investigation of a complaint notified to the DPC by a non-LinkedIn user.

The complaint concerned LinkedIn’s obtaining and use of the complainant’s email address for the purpose of targeted advertising on the Facebook.

The investigation revealed that that LinkedIn Corporation in the US did not have the required permission from the data controller – LinkedIn Ireland — to process hashed email addresses of 18 million non-LinkedIn members.

India has witnessed nearly 80 per cent growth in Human Resource (HR) analytics professionals in the past five years, global professional network site LinkedIn said on Tuesday.
LinkedIn reports that HR professional number grew by 80% in last 5 years in India. Pixabay

The complaint was ultimately “amicably resolved”, with LinkedIn implementing a number of immediate actions to cease the processing of user data for the purposes that gave rise to the complaint, DPC said in its report.

However, the body was “concerned with the wider systemic issues identified” in its report, and undertook a second audit to see if LinkedIn had adequate “technical security and organisational measures.”

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DPC found that the site was “undertaking the pre-computation of a suggested professional network for non-LinkedIn members,” and ordered them to stop and delete associated data that existed prior to May 25 of this year, the day when General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect.

“We appreciate the DPC’s 2017 investigation of a complaint about an advertising campaign and fully cooperated,” Denis Kelleher, Head of Privacy, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, for LinkedIn, told TechCrunch in a statement.

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Facebook, social media. Pixabay

“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,” Kelleher said.

As TechCrunch pointed out LinkedIn did not get fined in this process because until the implementation of GDPR at the end of May, the regulator had no power to enforce fines.

It is still not clear how LinkedIn got hold of those 18 million email addresses. (IANS)

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Facebook, Google Performing an Assault on the Right to Privacy

In a statement given to The Verge, a Google spokesperson said the company is working to give people more control over their data

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The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

Facebook and Google which offer services to billions of people without asking them to pay a financial fee are performing an assault on the right to privacy on an unprecedented scale, a stinging Amnesty International report said on Thursday, stressing that both companies need to change their business models which are threatening basic human rights.

The abuse of privacy that is core to Facebook and Google’s surveillance-based business model is starkly demonstrated by the companies’ long history of privacy scandals.

“Despite the companies’ assurances over their commitment to privacy, it is difficult not to see these numerous privacy infringements as part of the normal functioning of their business, rather than aberrations,” said the report that came out on Thursday.

Google and Facebook’s total revenues come almost entirely from advertising, at 84 percent and 98 percent respectively.

Their information is so attractive to advertisers that the two companies are often described as having a “duopoly” over the market in online advertising.

“But it isn’t ‘just ads’: the information in their data vaults – as well as the computational insights that Google and Facebook derive from that data,  is of intense interest to a host of actors, from companies who set insurance rates to law enforcement agencies,” said the NGO.

While Facebook agreed to pay a $5 billion fine to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over privacy violations in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the European Union’s antitrust regulators have fined Google 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for abusing its dominance in the online search market by blocking rivals.

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Huawei smartphones are seen in front of the displayed Google Play logo in this illustration picture, May 20, 2019. VOA

In fresh trouble for Google, 50 US Attorneys General probing its anti-trust market practices have decided to expand the investigation into the tech giant’s Android and Search businesses.

According to the Amnesty report, the surveillance-based business model of Google and Facebook has thrived from a largely hands-off approach to the regulation of the technology industry in key countries such as the US, the companies’ home state.

“But despite the real value of the services they provide, Google and Facebook’s platforms come at a systemic cost. The companies’ surveillance-based business model forces people to make a Faustian bargain, whereby they are only able to enjoy their human rights online by submitting to a system predicated on human rights abuse,” the report noted.

This isn’t the internet people signed up for. Citizens today are paying for the Facebook and Google services with their intimate personal data.

After collecting this data, Google and Facebook use it to analyze people, aggregate them into groups, and to make predictions about their interests, characteristics, and ultimately behavior – primarily so they can use these insights to generate advertising revenue.

“This surveillance machinery reaches well beyond the Google search bar or the Facebook platform itself. People are tracked across the web, through the apps on their phones, and in the physical world as well, as they go about their day-to-day affairs,” said the Amnesty report.

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An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

In another example of infringing on users’ privacy, Google’s partnership with US healthcare organization Ascension over health data collection of millions of Americans through its “Project Nightingale” has also triggered a federal probe.

According to the NGO report, the companies’ use of algorithmic systems to create and infer detailed profiles on people interferes with “our ability to shape our own identities within a private sphere”.

“Advertisers were the original beneficiaries of these insights, but once created, the companies’ data vaults served as an irresistible temptation for governments as well.”

Ultimately, said the report, it is now evident that the era of self-regulation in the tech sector is coming to an end and further state-based regulation will be necessary.

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In its reply, Facebook disagreed with it’s business model being “surveillance-based.”

“It is important to note that no one is obliged to sign up for Facebook. Facebook’s business model is not, as your summary suggests, driven by the collection of data about people. Like many other online companies, Facebook is supported through the sale of advertising,” the social networking platform said in a letter which is part of the Amnesty report.

In a statement given to The Verge, a Google spokesperson said the company is working to give people more control over their data. (IANS)