LinkedIn to Reduce Targeted Ads in EU Following Data Complaint

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LinkedIn has announced it will stop allowing advertisers to target users based on data gathered from LinkedIn Groups participation.

This decision follows more than three months after a coalition of civil society organizations submitted a complaint to the European Commission (EC) regarding a potential breach of the Digital Services Act (DSA). The DSA, effective across the European bloc since February, aims to establish strict governance over online content and outlines advertiser obligations, including algorithmic transparency and user targeting criteria.

Launched by the Microsoft-owned business social network in 2010, LinkedIn Groups was designed to help users connect around specific shared interests. After various standalone app attempts, LinkedIn re-integrated Groups into its flagship app in 2018.

In response to the February complaint, the EC requested detailed information from LinkedIn on how it might be enabling targeted ads based on sensitive personal data such as race, political beliefs, or sexual orientation. While LinkedIn insisted it adhered to the DSA, it has now eliminated the option for advertisers to “create an advertising audience” in Europe using LinkedIn Group membership data.

Patrick Corrigan, LinkedIn’s VP for legal and digital safety, stated that although the company disagreed that its platform could be used “indirectly” by advertisers for targeting based on special data categories, it opted to remove this feature regardless.

“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 on LinkedIn today. “The change is effective now for all new advertising campaigns.”

It’s significant that LinkedIn made this decision voluntarily, likely a preemptive measure to mitigate the impact of the investigation early on. Microsoft’s parent company already faces several regulatory challenges in Europe. LinkedIn will continue to allow targeted advertising, just not using data obtained from LinkedIn Groups.

“The Commission will monitor the effective implementation of LinkedIn’s public pledge to ensure full compliance with the DSA,” EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said in a statement today. “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.”

Today’s update follows the announcement last week from the EC designating Chinese e-commerce marketplace Temu as a “very large online platform” (VLOP) under DSA regulations, subjecting it to additional scrutiny due to its extensive reach. Temu is the 24th entity to be classified either as a VLOP or a very large online search engine (VLOSE).

Paul Sawers
Paul Sawers
Paul Sawers is a senior writer based in London, focused largely on the world of UK And European startups. However, he also writes about other subjects that he’s passionate about, such as the business of open source software. Previously, Paul gained more than a decade’s experience covering consumer and enterprise technologies for VentureBeat and The Next Web.

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