LinkedIn has introduced a new privacy setting that lets users choose whether or not their email address can be exported by connections. The default for the setting is “No” — meaning connections will be unable to download a user’s email via a data export unless the user manually switches the setting to “Yes.”  TechCrunch first reported the email privacy setting after being tipped off by a reader.

This new privacy setting gives users a new level of added security around their email address, but at what cost to marketers?

Impact on advertisers. “This was certainly a blow to advertisers,” says AJ Wilcox, a LinkedIn ads expert and the founder of the LinkedIn ad agency B2Linked. Wilcox says this new privacy setting will definitely impact marketers who used email addresses they exported from LinkedIn connections to target ads both on and off the platform.

“One of the popular use cases of exporting these email addresses was CEOs who are well-known in a market who want to show ads to people who already know and respect them, which results in a warmer touch. Advertisers could take the bulk export of email addresses, and upload them into LinkedIn Ads, Facebook Ads, and other platforms,” says Wilcox.

Now, that the default setting for downloading email addresses is set to “No” — many LinkedIn user emails will no longer be available for data exports, severely limiting the amount of email addresses marketers can pull from the platform.

Why LinkedIn made the change. LinkedIn says this new setting aims to give members more control over their information on the platform.

“If you take a look at the setting titled ‘Who can download your email’ you’ll see we’ve added a more detailed setting that defaults to the strongest privacy option. Members can choose to change that setting based on their preference. This gives our members control over who can download their email address via a data export,” says a LinkedIn spokesperson.

Wilcox agrees LinkedIn’s new privacy setting will help curb the amount spam users receive, but says the trade-off comes at the cost of a worthwhile marketing resource.

“I can’t bring up this conversation without someone complaining about how they accepted connections on LinkedIn, and all of a sudden, they’re on a mailing list they didn’t sign up for,” says Wilcox, “This move for privacy certainly will put an end to the poor-taste practice, but the marketers using those emails for positive uses now are missing out on a valuable tool.”

Why you should care. Generally speaking, this will not have a significant impact on large-scale marketing efforts as major brands are not scraping email lists from LinkedIn connections. It’s the influencers, entrepreneurs, SMBs and one-person shops using LinkedIn connections to market services who will be impacted as they can no longer rely on LinkedIn connection lists to build targeted ad campaigns both on LinkedIn and off the platform (i.e. using bulk data export to build custom audience lists for other platforms).

With privacy and security top of mind for the industry at large, LinkedIn’s move to safeguard user emails is not a surprise. In fact, in today’s climate of user data protections, it’s arguably more surprising that bulk data export of connections’ email addresses is even an option at all.


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