LinkedIn Disabled Targeted Ad Tool

Microsoft's business network LinkedIn has discontinued a tool in the EU that allowed it to use sensitive personal data when targeting ads on the platform for advertising. Could the same happen in the U.S.?

The move complies with EU online content rules. It follows a complaint by civil society organizations to the European Commission that acts as the tech watchdog for 27 countries.

"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," Patrick Corrigan, VP, legal, digital safety at LinkedIn, wrote June 7, 2024, in an updated LinkedIn post from 2023.



The updated post explains the process and outcome of adapting the audience-building tools in Europe after the Digital Services Act (DSA) began requiring online intermediaries like LinkedIn to give users more control of their data with an option to turn off personalized content. Other companies such as Google, Microsoft and Meta are likely to follow.

"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," Corrigan wrote. "The change is effective now for all new advertising campaigns. We appreciate the constructive engagement with DG-CNECT on this project."

EU industry chief Thierry Breton stated that the Commission will monitor the effective implementation of LinkedIn's public pledge to ensure full compliance with the DSA.

“Following a civil society complaint, in March we asked LinkedIn to explain how they comply with the DSA ban on targeted ads based on sensitive personal data, like sexual orientation, political opinions, or race," Breton wrote. "As a result, LinkedIn is voluntarily discontinuing the functionality in question."

DSA began applying to all online intermediaries in the EU beginning earlier this year. This included businesses that offer services such as online platforms, online consumer marketplaces, hosting services, cloud storage services, caching services, and conduit services. The DSA also applies to online intermediary services providers (ISPs) such as internet service providers, direct messaging services, virtual private networks, and others.

Although this is only effective in the EU countries today, as the U.S. builds on its privacy laws this type of restriction could become a ruling as privacy standards to protect consumer data increases and third-party browser cookies are no longer in use. 

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