Saturday, June 15, 2024

LinkedIn forced to disable advertising tool for European users in compliance with EU ‘rulebook’

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LinkedIn has disabled a feature allowing advertisers to target European users based on membership in ‘LinkedIn Groups’ after concerns over compliance with rules set out in the European Commission’s Digital Services Act (DSA).

In August 2023, Europe’s landmark rules for online platforms – the DSA – came into effect, which aims to rein in Big Tech and protect the safety of users online. 

The law aims to create a ‘rulebook’ for online platforms by regulating companies’ content moderation policies and advertising practices. It also requires that platforms share details of their algorithms with regulators and, in certain cases, independent researchers.

The latest platform to make changes under this act is Microsoft-owned LinkedIn. Following complaints that advertisers were able to target users on the basis of their membership in ‘LinkedIn Groups’ – creating a violation around ad profiling – the platform has now disabled this feature. 

The issue was first brought to the European Commission’s attention in February 2024 following a complaint by civil society organisations, which are non-governmental groups that act as watchdogs for the EU. 

In March 2024, the commission contacted LinkedIn for further information on how membership to LinkedIn Groups is enabling advertisers to target ads to users of these groups based on their sensitive personal data such as race, political allegiance or sexual orientation, which is not allowed under the DSA. 

According to an article published by Reuters, LinkedIn maintained it was not in contravention of the DSA, but it has now removed the feature for European users.

LinkedIn’s vice president Patrick Corrigan said in a LinkedIn post: “We’ve decided to adjust those tools by removing the ability to create an advertising audience in Europe that uses membership in LinkedIn Groups as an input.

“We made this change to prevent any misconception that ads to European members could be indirectly targeted based on special categories of data or related profiling categories.”

EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton welcomed the move. In a statement posted on the European Commission’s website, he said: “The commission will monitor the effective implementation of LinkedIn’s public pledge to ensure full compliance with the DSA. While we will remain vigilant, it is positive to see the DSA delivering change that no other law has attained so far, in Europe and beyond.”

The commission has been cracking down on tech companies since the DSA took effect, with Meta, TikTok and X all being probed.

At the start of May 2024, it opened formal proceedings against Facebook and Instagram over concerns the online platforms are not doing enough to counter the spread of election disinformation.

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