LinkedIn discontinues group-based ad targeting to comply with DSA

Following an EU complaint, LinkedIn stops using Group data for ad targeting in Europe to comply with the Digital Services Act.

LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn this month announced it would no longer allow advertisers to target users based on their participation in LinkedIn Groups within Europe. This decision comes after a coalition of civil society groups filed a complaint with the European Commission (EC) in February 2024, alleging that such practices could violate the newly implemented Digital Services Act (DSA).

The DSA, which came into effect across the European Union in February 2024, establishes a regulatory framework for online content and user targeting practices. It aims to increase transparency, empower users with greater control over their data, and hold online platforms accountable.

LinkedIn Groups and targeted advertising

LinkedIn launched Groups in 2010 as a way for users to connect based on shared interests. The platform experimented with a standalone Groups app but ultimately integrated Groups functionality within its main app in 2018.

Following the complaint filed in February, the EC requested clarification from LinkedIn regarding how user data from Groups might be leveraged for targeted advertising, particularly concerning sensitive data such as race, political views, or sexual orientation. While LinkedIn maintained compliance with the DSA, they have proactively removed the ability to create advertising audiences based on Group membership data within Europe.

According to Patrick Corrigan, LinkedIn's VP for legal and digital safety, the company opted to remove the feature despite disagreeing with the claim that it could be misused for targeting based on sensitive data. Corrigan stated, as quoted on a LinkedIn post, "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." This change applies to all new advertising campaigns launched after June 7, 2024.

This move by LinkedIn is considered voluntary and likely intended to address the EC's concerns early on. Microsoft, LinkedIn's parent company, is already facing regulatory scrutiny in Europe, potentially influencing this decision. While targeted advertising remains available, it will no longer utilize data derived from LinkedIn Group memberships within the European region.

The EU has acknowledged LinkedIn's action. Thierry Breton, EU Internal Market Commissioner, stated in a press release, "The Commission will monitor the effective implementation of LinkedIn's public pledge to ensure full compliance with the DSA... It is positive to see the DSA delivering change that no other law has attained so far, in Europe and beyond."

This development highlights the evolving landscape of data privacy regulations and their potential impact on online advertising practices. As the DSA is a relatively new regulation, it will be interesting to see how it shapes online advertising strategies within the European Union and how other platforms adapt their user targeting practices in response.

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