LinkedIn has temporarily delayed planned changes to Lynda.com, a popular education-video library the company bought in 2015 for $1.5 billion, after libraries around the country raised privacy concerns.
This summer, LinkedIn announced that it would require users of Lynda.com to create a LinkedIn account to get to the video collection. That turned out to cause particular challenges for public libraries, since it meant forcing library users to give personal information to LinkedIn to access the videos, a practice that violates long-standing privacy policies and norms. The changes had been set to go into effect in September.
In a July statement to LinkedIn, the American Library Association said the proposed change would “would significantly impair library users’ privacy rights,” and called on the company to change the plan.
The ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, for instance, states that: “All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use. Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy, safeguarding all library use data, including personally identifiable information.”
Meanwhile, the California State Library recommended that its users discontinue Lynda.com when it fully merges with LinkedIn Learning if it institutes the changes.
Since those statements, LinkedIn announced that it would “pause” its plan.
“We recognize that there are ongoing concerns about some of the changes we are making,” the company said in a statement. “The pause is giving us time to continue our discussions with the library community and understand if we can build an online learning solution that meets the needs of public libraries and library patrons.”
But the company suggested that it may not end up changing its direction. “While we cannot commit to any changes in our approach at this time, the pause is giving us time to have the right, thoughtful discussions,” the statement concluded.
Greg Lucas, California State Librarian, replied in an October 4 letter to LinkedIn, thanking them for putting a hold on plans to consider the libraries’ position. He wrote: “Lynda.com, now in transition to LinkedIn Learning, is a useful platform that’s popular with many library users who, as you know, can voluntarily create a user profile under current access protocols. Hopefully, a revised user agreement for library patrons can maintain that option.”
Security has been one reason cited by LinkedIn for requiring users to set up LinkedIn accounts to access Lynda.com videos. A LinkedIn spokesperson previously said that the current system that libraries use to verify identities—with library cards—was prone to being “compromised by bots,” and therefore represented a security risk.
Library officials countered that plenty of other software companies work with libraries without forcing users to give personal information while still maintaining security.
Even if LinkedIn goes forward with the planned changes, colleges, university libraries and corporate users of Lynda.com services will not be required to force users to set up a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn officials say that’s because colleges and corporations have more robust ways to verify the identity of users than public libraries do.