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Tip of the Hat

21 November 2019

Privacy in the News:
LinkedIn and the "Like" Button

Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat! We have various updates from around libraryland and beyond, so let’s start the week by catching you up on important news and developments.

LinkedIn Learning Stalemate

Last week we learned that negotiations between ALA representatives and LinkedIn Learning stalled over the proposed changes the company plans to implement later this year that would require users to create a LinkedIn profile to access LinkedIn Learning resources. ALA released a public statement to LinkedIn Learning to reconsider their changes, while a petition on EveryLibrary is collecting signatures of libraries and library staff who will not renew (or will consider not renewing) their contracts with LinkedIn Learning in light of this upcoming change. The list of libraries committed to not renewing the service grows, with state libraries getting into the fray.
The story has also found its way to various news outlets:
LinkedIn Learning has directed those seeking comment for the recent statements from ALA and libraries to a blog post from June 2019, which doesn’t give much in the way of addressing the concerns raised in the recent weeks.

Time to rethink the embedded “Like” button?

Today, the Court of Justice for the European Union delivered a ruling that could have ripple effects in the US. The Court ruled that websites that embed the Facebook “Like” button are responsible for the privacy of the users on the website. According to the Court, a website that has the “Like” button must follow the same consent and data processing regulations laid out in European law, even though that data is being transferred to Facebook. This is not the first time that the embedded “Like” button has gotten into trouble in the EU – a recent example comes from 2016, where a German court ruled that a site with the embedded button violated user privacy.

Many libraries and vendor products include the “Like” button on websites, catalogs, and other patron-facing applications and services. Embedding social media buttons such as the “Like” button already presents several privacy issues. For example, this 2013 article from Mother Jones explains how companies can track users through websites that have the “Tweet” button embedded into their pages. These buttons and widgets collect patron information and this information can be sent back those social media sites even if the patron doesn’t use the buttons on the page.

With US states looking toward the EU and GDPR as a foundation to build their own state data privacy laws, this ruling may influence how US law interprets the responsibility for user privacy when a website embeds social media buttons that have been known to track users. Even if no laws come to pass, it would still be worthwhile to revisit your organization’s use of these types of social media buttons on your websites and if that use aligns with your privacy policy and patron privacy expectations.


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