linkedin-jail-1024x845Linkedin’s new terms of service go into effect October 23, 2014. One of them requires members to always use the ® or ™ symbol whenever you write Linkedin. I didn’t use it. I don’t have to. I killed my Linkedin account awhile ago because I did not agree to their terms of service. I may have used the word “draconian.” I was being polite.

Since then, Linkedin has been through some lawsuits over use of the information on their website. Mostly, they have sued over the collection and use of member names and employment information.

They are also being sued for privacy violations for misusing members’ email address books (they also just settled claims of wage and overtime violations with the Department of Labor for 6 million dollars).

LinkedIn: New Rules, Same BS

So they may have some new lawyers. They definitely have some new rules. Linkedin has provided summaries to the changes to user agreement and the privacy policy, which are accurate, but incomplete.

The big change is to the license you grant them to use the information and content you post on Linkedin. They have scaled back and reduced their rights.

The old license you gave Linkedin (it still applies to everything you post until October 24, 2014) granted Linkedin an unlimited license to do whatever it wants with the information you post on Linkedin, including the right “to use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered . . . without any further consent, notice and/or compensation.”

The new license is still

A worldwide, transferable and sublicensable right to use, copy, modify, distribute, publish, and process, information and content that you provide through our Services, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or others.”

f9715b9023470d9eb9d65bb161b06078But now, at least it ends when you delete your account or content from the site. And they deleted the right to commercialize, i.e. sell, your content to other people. Linkedin also promises to get your permission before it publishes your posts somewhere besides Linkedin. And they have promised not to use your content in advertisements without asking you.

Much better!

So what good does that “worldwide, transferable, right to use and distribute” that information and content get them? Well, the right to collect all your data and do pretty much anything they want except specifically sell your content.

Linkedin doesn’t really care about what your content is, or what it says. What they want is lots of users taking lots of actions so they can use the information about connections to sell paid memberships to recruiters and companies. Linkedin is worthless without a really big database.

The new terms of service also talk about advertisements, so it looks like Linkedin will be selling and targeting ads too.

In other words, Linkedin’s product is still you. It will always be you. And they do not have to pay you for you.

It’s not only Linkedin. It’s Facebook, Twitter, Google and just about everyone else.

If the service is free, the product is you.

Use With Caution: What LinkedIn Won’t Let You Do

What they don’t talk about is the changes to the Do’s and Don’ts, which have changed to really restrict how any member can use the information on Linkedin. This is probably a result of software vendors, database builders, companies and recruiters all copying information about people from Linkedin to use it.

Their latest attempt to modify the do’s and don’ts pretty much makes it so that no one can use any information obtained from Linkedin, for anything, ever.

For example, you cannot “copy profiles and information of others through any means,” including manually.

That technically means you cannot go to Linkedin to check the spelling of someone’s name and then write it down correctly.

You also cannot:

  • Copy or use the information, content or data of others available on the Services (except as expressly authorized);
  • Copy or use the information, content or data on LinkedIn in connection with a competitive service (as determined by LinkedIn);
  • Copy, modify or create derivative works of LinkedIn, the Services or any related technology (except as expressly authorized by LinkedIn);
  • Rent, lease, loan, trade, sell/re-sell access to the Services or related any information or data;
  • Sell, sponsor, or otherwise monetize a LinkedIn Group or any other feature of the Services, without LinkedIn’s consent.

There are about 5-6 other restrictions on accessing or copying information on Linkedin. You get the gist.

Another couple gems from the list are you cannot:

  • Use LinkedIn invitations to send messages to people who don’t know you or who are unlikely to recognize you as a known contact.
  • Share or disclose information of others without their express consent.

This means you cannot connect with anyone you don’t actually know, which eliminates any usefulness whatsoever for recruiters, who are Linkedin’s primary paying clients. It also means that you have to contact these people you find on Linkedin to get their consent before sharing their names or employment history with anyone.

Again, a problem for recruiters. And the penalty for violating the Linkedin Do’s and Don’ts is banishment and loss of access to Linkedin.

Linkedin is stuck between a rock and hard place on this one. It needs to take information it does not own and create a website that members find useful, while trying to control how people use it and prevent others from developing competing products.

The problem is that this attempt at control is so broad that users technically can’t use Linkedin for any reasonable purpose without violating its terms of use.


Heather Bussing, HRExaminer EAB EditorAbout the Author: Heather Bussing is an attorney who writes a lot, teaches advanced legal writing to law students and is the Editorial Advisory Board editor at HR Examiner. Heather has practiced employment and business law for over 20 years.

She has represented employers, unions and employees in every aspect of employment and labor law including contract negotiations, discrimination and wage hour issues. She regularly advises companies on personnel policies and how to navigate employment discipline and termination issues.

Heather also practices in the areas of real estate, mortgage fraud, construction and business law including business entity formation and corporate governance. Lately, she has been working on issues involving licensing and ownership of internet content. She also teaches legal research and writing, is an accomplished photographer and walks on the beach whenever she can.

Follow Heather on Twitter @HeatherBussing – but you can’t connect with her on LinkedIn.