LinkedIn’s User Agreement

In this week’s reading reaction we looked at the Terms and Conditions of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which were also briefly covered in lecture. For this week’s assignment I decided to tackle the Terms of Service for another social media channel that could be very valuable to me in the future, LinkedIn. LinkedIn is quickly growing to be my second favorite channel, behind Facebook, so I decided to analyze what you can and cannot do on the channel.

Some aspects of LinkedIn’s User Agreement are confusing and contradictory. Firstly, I take LinkedIn very seriously as a digital resume and an opportunity for working professionals to showcase themselves to potential employers. If every member of LinkedIn is supposed to be a working professional, why is the minimum age in the United States only thirteen? At thirteen years old a person is barely legal to work, so I find it hard to believe that they should be allowed to have a LinkedIn profile. If the majority of thirteen year olds are not working, then they’re either not on LinkedIn or they are using a profile for something they shouldn’t be using it for. It is my feeling that LinkedIn should raise the minimum age of users to at least fifteen or sixteen, in order to prevent the creation of fake profiles or inappropriate content, which is also part of the User Agreement.

Like with Facebook, the user owns the content they publish, but LinkedIn has the right to use content published on the channel at their discretion without notifying the user. I don’t like that part of the agreement, but I understand that LinkedIn is a business. When a song I wrote was chosen to be recorded by an independent record label, the contract said I retained all rights to the song, but they had the discretion to change the arrangement or lyrics as they saw fit to increase the quality of the song. With that, I am also allowed to sell the song to another label if I choose, a label that could keep everything the way it was originally intended. I may not like every detail in the agreement, but I don’t think I can make an argument that there’s anything unethical about that detail.

As is the case with Twitter, LinkedIn does not monitor all content and it is up to the users to report anything illegal or unethical. However, it says that LinkedIn has the right to limit or prohibit contact between LinkedIn members or limit the amount of connections a person has. If a LinkedIn user is “solely responsible for your interactions with other Members,” then how is LinkedIn allowed to limit interactions? If an interaction has been reported and LinkedIn revokes your right to that interaction after the fact, that should be made more clear in the User Agreement.

As of right now, those are the ethical dilemmas of LinkedIn I object to. If they could reword some of the entries to make them more understandable, many of their ethical issues would be resolved. I’m looking forward to seeing how they revise this agreement in the future.

 

Reading The Fine Print

Terms and conditions are a hotly debated issue in the realm of social media. Do people read them? If so, do they do everything they can to follow them? I can tell you that I have not read the terms and conditions for anything since I was probably in middle school over a decade ago. In fact, I think the last terms and conditions document I read may have been when I downloaded iTunes for the first time. If I were to make an assumption, I would say that if people wanted to read the terms and conditions, they maybe started the document and gave up when they realized it would take far too long to read. With absolutely no data to back it up, I would venture a guess that less than five percent of people read the terms and conditions.

Facebook is my main channel of choice for most of my personal and professional social media use. After reading their terms and conditions, or Statement of Rights and Responsibilities as they like to call it, there would be some things I would either take out or word differently. Under the “Sharing Your Content and Information” section, I was confused by the ability to use IP content and how intellectual property rights are involved. I realize this may fall under legal instead of ethical, but if there are intellectual property rights, why can Facebook use any photos or videos that I as a user would post? What I might do if I were to revise the terms and conditions is to either add a short blurb or a link to the definition of intellectual property rights. That way ethically Facebook can fully explain how they are allowed to use the photos or videos. If the users don’t want to read it, that’s their own fault. That would be in keeping with the language of the document, placing the responsibility on the user for agreeing and living up to the terms.

In the “Safety” section, I think they should either come down harder on offenders of logging into another user’s account or they should take it out of the document. Many of us in the program have at one time or another logged in for a friend who willingly gave you their login information. Clearly this doesn’t always work the way they want it to, but people only give out that information to people they really trust. Finally, the last point I want to mention is about creating multiple accounts, which is under the “Registration and Account Security” section. I know many college friends who have one account for personal use while the other is for business. I have yet to hear about someone being reprimanded for having multiple accounts, so I think Facebook is being ethically misleading  by having that rule in the document if they aren’t going to enforce it.

Since I don’t use Twitter or Instagram nearly as often as I do Facebook, I will save my analysis of their Terms and Conditions for my weekly reading reaction. What do you think of my alterations to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities? Let me know in the comments.