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At Adobe Summit, LinkedIn wipes the floor with Facebook and Twitter on privacy policy

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By Katie Deighton | Senior Reporter

March 29, 2018 | 5 min read

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An Adobe Summit panel session featuring execs from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn saw the latter unexpectedly trounce its social competitors on the subject of data privacy policies in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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L-R: Madati, Selcher and Alston at Adobe Summit 2018

Melissa Selcher, LinkedIn’s vice president of brand marketing and corporate communications, explained how the engrained company ethos of ‘members first’ has led to a culture of utmost respect for user privacy.

According to the VP, every member of staff at the Microsoft-owned network is expected to use the mantra at the crossroads of every decision-making process. “I would say it’s not just a value on a badge,” she said. “[We] use it as a guidepost for the decisions we make.”

Selcher went on to explain how the company’s privacy dialogue centres around clarity, choice and control: “making sure that at any time, any member of LinkedIn understands how they’re data is being used, if they want that data to be used and to what extent.”

She added that LinkedIn is rolling out all adjustments it is making for GDPR in Europe to all of its global markets, in order to guarantee the “highest standards” of data usage. Her team has also recently wrapped a mandatory training course in the regulation, too.

In contrast, Facebook’s rep was less specific about the changes the advertising giant would be making. Taking the hot seat was vice president of partnerships, Gene Alston, who pre-empted any questioning on the Cambridge Analytica data breach by launching into a pre-prepared pacification at the intro stage of the keynote session.

“I just want to say that from Mark [Zuckerberg] and the leadership team, we take our commitment [to user privacy] really seriously,” he said. “We will ensure that [the Cambridge Analytica] data is deleted and we will tell you if you’re involved at all.

“I’ve never seen a leadership team more focused and committed to tackling these challenges head on to make this platform better. We’re going to get better and listen to the community.”

When pushed on specific changes the company would be making, Alston eluded to “a lot of things that we’re trying to really push”, adding that the Cambridge Analytica debacle could be spun as an opportunity for “to push forward on several things like ad transparency and user control”.

However later in the day it was announced that Facebook specific measures by closing its Partner Categories, thereby shutting off advertisers' access to third-party data.

Twitter’s rep, on the other hand, appeared confident in his platform’s ability to handle privacy issues, purely on the basis that most user data is “shareable and searchable”.

Kay Madati, the brand’s vice president and global head of content partnerships said: “Even when we look at our data products ... it’s all pulled off of public information. So while we have lots of checks and balances, our issues around privacy are diminished around the fact that most information we have is public.”

Madati did not address Twitter's ongoing battle with policing online abuse and the effect this might have on its advertisers. Instead, he said: "I have no content business if we can’t provide a brand safe environment for our advertisers.

"This isn’t just a peripheral conversation around policies and procedures, this is core to our platform and core to what we want to be out in the marketplace."

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