Are Social Networks (LinkedIn too!) Helping Users or Invading Privacy?

In December I reached my “last straw” with Facebook when I saw in the margin a steady stream of ads mirroring my Cyber Monday purchases I had made on I’m fine with designated ad space on a free site so at first I was pissed at Amazon thinking they were sharing my purchases but I soon discovered it was Facebook tracking my browser shopping history in order to serve me “ads I would be interested in.”

There are ways to block this, I researched and found applications to shield my history but felt indignant for the need to protect my “private” activity so I simply changed my viewing of Facebook to a different browser than my normal and set it on private viewing. The “cost” is the need to re-input my id and password and lose the tab convenience so I now spend significantly less time there due to the annoyance (which is a really a good thing for my time management).

Owning a service business I mix business and personal in life on Facebook, but LinkedIn (which I have been on since not long after it hit mass) is strictly business…or so I thought. Having just booked a family vacation yesterday I was shocked to see hotel ads for the destination in my LinkedIn margin. For years in publishing we segment audiences, merge/purged lists and tried to sell that value to advertisers so maybe I should be more pro “knowledge marketing” but as a consumer it irks me in the least and feels like an offensive invasion of privacy at worst. Sure there are published policies, every try to challenge them and still use a site?

As to serving the advertisers, I ask why would I want to see ads for things I ALREADY PURCHASED or know how to shop for?  Besides, I’m a guy, I don’t shop to shop, I shop to buy and I certainly don’t want LinkedIn to be any part of that? I thought it was a business destination (despite so many recent updates of irrelevant quizzes and last nights dinner) and while I mix business and personal on my work computer, so do the great majority of office workers, to the extent they are allowed (or frowned up for doing so, but that’s not this argument). Is the pressure on LinkedIn for eyes and revenue that there is no more line between a business and personal social network?

I’m fine with LinkedIn serving me ads based on the content of my profile, my updates and posts and even my job title or industry (like the good old days). Will these “informed” margin ads go the way of the banner ad and the now blocked “pop ups.”  Advertisers are going to find, in my opinion, that invasive identification of on line activity to promote targeted advertisers is an arrow they are firing in the air that is destined to land back to earth in the head of the ones firing it.  Am I just getting cranky? Does to the new generation of on-line personal consumers AND business users expect and, dare I ask, want this knowledge base of activity to connect to advertising?  I wonder, meanwhile I have to move my LinkedIn to a private browser…and get back to work.

Tom Fox