Terms and Conditions Explored – LinkedIn

Logo-59px-RAlthough not the most thrilling reading material, Terms and Conditions are a necessary part of life, protecting the company and the user and providing information about legal rights and responsibilities. This week, I explored the LinkedIn User Agreement. LinkedIn updated their Agreement in October of 2014. They provide a summary of the updates here. The language is very user-friendly.

I was impressed with the layout and presentation of the User Agreement page. At the top, they have a welcoming paragraph explaining the purpose of the page, including a clear note stating, “You are entering into a legally binding contract.” It’s done in such a way that it’s not threatening and shows the user that it’s something to be taken serious. They have also provided a video explaining content ownership, which is extremely useful for people who have a hard time reading through this type of material. The Privacy Policy page has the same format along with a video. One potential ethical implication I see is that people may watch the videos thinking they summarize all of the important information, when they only cover a portion of the material.

The User Agreement is divided into sections. Each section has two columns – a short user-friendly summary in the left column and a longer, wordier version on the right. Reading the right column gives the reader the complete terms of the Agreement. Reading only the left column leaves out key points that are important. For example: In the left column of section 1.2, you will see, “you are entering into a legal agreement and you agree to all of these terms.” In the right column of this section, it goes on to explain that, “you are entering into a legally binding agreement (even if you are using our Services on behalf of a company).” It is important to note that any employee who maintains a company LinkedIn page is responsible for adhering to the terms of this Agreement.

The Agreement does a great job explaining the expectations of the user but it doesn’t attempt to regurgitate the law. They make their points but also let the user know that in all cases, the law ultimately applies. Because the most important section in the Agreement is LinkedIn “DOs” and “DON’Ts.” it was wise that they made the material easy to read by displaying it in bulleted lists. Even if the user skips the rest of the Agreement and lands on this section, they have enough information to know how to properly use the services. People often embellish or lie about their experience in order to obtain a job. LinkedIn makes it clear that you are not allowed to make any misrepresentations. It is also sure to make the point that escort services are off limits. Any potential ethical issues that could arise from improper use of LinkedIn are covered in this section, protecting both LinkedIn and the users and maintaining the professional atmosphere that makes the platform so desirable for their audience.

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10 thoughts on “Terms and Conditions Explored – LinkedIn

  1. I’m glad to see you reviewed the terms and conditions of LinkedIn as I started thinking about how we put more personal identifiable information on LinkedIn than we do on any other social media platform. We put our emails and phone numbers for public use on this channel and don’t even think about what we are doing. We also put all of our work history and other sensitive information for easy display.

    I really like the user friendliness of the split column display on LinkedIn’s user agreement. Having both a legal language side and a friendly language side really makes me feel like more users might actually take a look at the user agreement. I wonder if they have any statistics internally at LinkedIn that show a comparison of the number of people who view a user agreement when it is only presented in legal terms and when they present the information in a friendlier language? I also find it intriguing that they specifically mention users are not allowed to embellish their postings on LinkedIn. While the platform is essentially a digital resume (with some other uses as well), it is interesting that they makes such a point about honesty since most people seem to embellish everything online.

    1. Kayla, I get uneasy knowing any of my personal information is out there in cyber space. LinkedIn reveals so much about our lives and personal information. I try to make sure nothing crucial is available to the public. LinkedIn always reminds us not to connect with people we don’t know. It makes sense, but many people would argue that not accepting a connection may inhibit your networking ability.

      The language in the left column really is refreshing. I found myself more comfortable venturing to the right side because I could reference the “normal” explanation on the left. I wonder if it would be possible to write the entire agreement in the friendlier language. I imagine it would be a challenge to get so “legal” without using at least a little jargon. Thank you for your comment!

  2. First, great blog! I am very new to WordPress and I am still trying to figure it out. I was curious of how you would evaluate LinkedIn’s terms and conditions given they are a professional network. My first thought was to expect a boring, uneventful standard written policy. What I saw on LinkedIn’s page was simple but there was more thought there than I had expected. You made a great observation in that their terms and conditions are non-threatening. Often times you read them and you automatically feel like you have done something wrong before you hit accept. LinkedIn used an approach that had a more receptive tone.

    When I saw the video, it made me wonder why other social media sites have not taken this approach. Take for example Pinterest; I would think they would present their TCs in a creatively thought out board, or even an infographic. Another surprising trend I notice is how far into the terms one must read before reaching the Do’s and Don’ts, this in one of the most important parts. If the list isn’t violated, much of the policy will not apply.

    1. Thank you Alicia! WordPress is great. Once you start playing around, I think you’ll see how user friendly it is. I’m not a pro but I would be happy to help if you have any questions.

      I also thought LinkedIn would have the most boring agreement but I was surprised to see how nice it was. Those videos are excellent tools. I wish more companies used that technique. You’re right about the Do’s and Don’ts. I think it would be nice to have them closer to the top for people who want to see a clear summary. Thank you for commenting!

  3. LinkedIn is probably one the profiles I have that I use the least simply not because I don’t see it’s value, but because i kind of forget about it because I’m not actively doing anything on it on a daily basis. LinkedIn’s terms and conditions are definitely user friendly. I liked how they broke up the terms into two sections and featured a column of the actual terms and then they additional column of what the terms really mean for the users. If other social media platforms used the two column model LinkedIn use I would probably read and actually understand the terms and conditions of the sites.

    1. Emily, I don’t use LinkedIn much either but I appreciate being able to organize all of my professional work in one place. I agree that if more companies wrote their terms like LinkedIn I would be much more inclined to read them.

      Here is the problem I find. Most of the time, you are directed to a pop up that asks you if you agree to the terms. The words “Terms and Conditions” usually appear as a link. You can select the “I Agree” box without ever clicking that link. How many people ever click the link? I don’t. So, even though I might read these user friendly terms, I still have to get over to the Terms page to see them.

  4. Hi Erin,

    I’ve never taken a look at Linkedin’s Terms and Conditions up until now and I agree the language is very user-friendly. Linkedin does a better job than Facebook and Twitter to explain the agreement between their service and it’s users.

    While you note the Linkedin videos don’t cover everything in the Agreement or Privacy Policy, I do like how they took the time out to even make a video. We live in a world where people want information quick and we don’t have time to read through all of this legal jargon. Considering that video is the king of content marketing right now, I give them 2 thumbs up for creating a video that explains their rules as opposed to just having long drawn-out documents. I would like to see other popular services like Facebook or Twitter incorporate a video that explains their rules in a user-friendly way.

    1. Tammy,

      I LOVE their videos! Not only is it great that they even have them, but they are really good! They are easy to watch and offer great information in a small little package. I think it should be standard for all companies with Terms and Conditions to offer a video.

  5. As Emily stated, I too use LinkedIn the least, but I do have a profile set up. And its actually the one we should pay attention to the most, as we put the most amount of personal information on that site. Everything from the city we live in to the schools we went to and the jobs we’ve had. There’s a lot more “personal stalking” that can come up as a result. Im glad to see that their Terms and conditions are user friendly. I always feel that when things are broken up into categories it helps. Would you read a 300 page 1 chapter book? No! Thats why there are a table of contents. The video is EXACTLY what all other social sites need! It’s great, engaging, interactive, and in a time where everything is more visually image driven, it will speak to its users more.

    1. Samantha,

      I wish I could get more active on LinkedIn but I really struggle to do so. You are right about all of that personal information hanging out there. Even if we aren’t very active, we still need to be aware of our privacy settings. As long as everything is in order, I feel comfortable not checking in as often.

      As I mentioned in my last comment to Tammy, I definitely think videos should be used to give a user-friendly breakdown of Terms and Conditions for all companies. At the very least, social sites should be using them!

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