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LinkedIn disables tool for targeted ads to comply with EU tech rules

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Microsoft’s LinkedIn has discontinued a tool that allows it to use sensitive personal data for targeted advertising in order to comply with EU online content rules, the social media platform said on Friday.

The move by the company followed a complaint by civil society organisations to the European Commission, which also acts as the tech watchdog for the 27-country bloc.

Under the Digital Services Act (DSA), online intermediaries are required to give users more control on the use of their data, with an option for them to turn off personalised content.

Companies are not allowed to use sensitive personal data such as race, sexual orientation or political opinions for their targeted ads.

The Commission had in March sent a request for information to LinkedIn after the groups said the tool may allow advertisers to target LinkedIn users based on racial or ethnic origin, political opinions and other personal data due to their membership of LinkedIn groups.

“We’ve decided to adjust those tools by removing the ability to create an advertising audience in Europe that uses membership in LinkedIn Groups as an input,” LinkedIn’s Vice President Patrick Corrigan said in 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,” he said.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton welcomed the move.

“The Commission will monitor the effective implementation of LinkedIn’s public pledge to ensure full compliance with the DSA,” he said in a statement.

Complainants European Digital Rights (EDRi), Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte (GFF), Global Witness and Bits of Freedom cheered the LinkedIn move.

“Forced by Europe to act, LinkedIn must now widen this policy to users everywhere and ensure it’s not just those in Europe who are protected from invasive ad targeting,” Global Witness’ Nienke Palstra said in a statement.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by David Evans)

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