What Will Microsoft Do With All That LinkedIn Data?


Although big mergers in the world of technology are not uncommon, ones the size of Microsoft's LinkedIn purchase, announced in June, only come along once in a blue moon. At a purchase price just north of $26 billion, there aren't many technology deals that can even come close to the magnitude of such a buyout.

Credit: Pixabay
Credit: Pixabay

That will of course have huge ramifications for staff, who may find themselves redundant thanks to their opposite number at the other company; shareholders, who will see their stock in either company jostle around while things settle down; and the users of LinkedIn themselves, who are now facing an uncertain future. When Microsoft purchased LinkedIn, it didn't just buy up its technology, its servers and its user base, it bought the data that those users have been adding to LinkedIn for years.

This data aspect raises a lot of questions. How will that data be handled after the merger? Will Microsoft leverage it to sell users on products, or sell it on to third parties? What will happen to information we put into LinkedIn in the future?

This all seems rather sinister sounding, because despite sharing online being something we all take part in far more often today than we would have done a decade or two ago, the concept of handing over vast, unknown swathes of data on ourselves to a corporate entity can still give us the willies.

But it doesn't necessarily have to.

In a chat with TechCrunch, Dennis Dayman, the chief privacy officer at Return Path, claims that this is just Microsoft's way of working to better understand its user base. It wants to know why and how people use the tools it provides for them. It knows about user experience in software like Office 365, but not why we do the things we do. LinkedIn gives it the chance to change that.

This may be something that Microsoft addresses publicly and makes it something that's useful for all users. When people collaborate on projects in Office 365, perhaps Microsoft will leverage their LinkedIn accounts to let you in on where they work, or how long they've been doing their job.

Or it could keep it internal and use LinkedIn's vast silos of data to better market its products to people.

Yet another angle could see Microsoft make forays into the data analytics game, which should be worrying for anyone looking to hold their own in that competitive space.

Much of what happens with the LinkedIn data may depend on where users are based of course. Data privacy laws are constantly being tweaked and rewritten, but tend to be stronger in the EU than the US. It will be interesting to see what level of access to user information Microsoft is granted after the merger is complete, especially when it comes to international territories.

Regardless of what happens though, there is no doubt that users will hope that transparency is the name of the game. Whatever Microsoft does with user data is unlikely to be as worrying as some of the ideas the community comes up with in their minds. Heading them off at the pass may be the best way to avoid an early backlash.

Jon Martindale, Technology Journalist

Jon Martindale is a technology journalist and hardware reviewer, having been covering new developments in the field for most of his professional career. In that time he's tested the latest and greatest releases from the big hardware companies of the world, as well as writing about new software releases, industry movements,and Internet activism.

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Re: Microsoft and LI
  • 10/30/2016 11:12:37 PM
NO RATINGS

Not necessarily, and you make a great point - I've shared posts I've written here on it, so it does not have to be a LI post. But it does confirm some level knowledge, much like the answers feature did.  

Re: Microsoft and LI
  • 10/30/2016 9:15:15 PM
NO RATINGS

Do you really need to write to appear like you have an active profile? I feel like plenty of people are doing sharing as the way to get noticed ... sharing and commenting on other people's posts.

Re: Microsoft and LI
  • 10/30/2016 11:57:30 AM
NO RATINGS

It all falls back to the opt out and how well it is designed in a mobile application.  Seem to always fall to it, does it?

Re: Microsoft and LI
  • 10/30/2016 11:55:16 AM
NO RATINGS

Did not know that about Pulse, but you are right about the uproar about Q&A being dropped - it helped build the community to an extent, and let people discover the depths of their knowledge.  It was difference between a dormant profile and one with active support. Today it's not entirely clear unless the person writes a post regularly. Not everyone writes.

Re: Microsoft and LI
  • 9/30/2016 11:58:10 PM
NO RATINGS

I think maybe we're being a little sensitive. Sure, it's accessing your contacts and phone info, but don't all social media do that now? Facebook and LinkedIn are constantly trying to get you to allow access to your mail. It's a way for them to grow their matrix, but it's also helpful for us, the users. So I don't think we should be that freaked out about it.

Re: Microsoft and LI
  • 9/29/2016 9:42:21 PM
NO RATINGS

@MN it might have been ok if I'd known about the setting before I updated the app. I had to look it up to find out how to turn it off.

Re: Microsoft and LI
  • 9/29/2016 3:22:24 AM
NO RATINGS

Wow, that IS creepy. I don't think I'd mind, though, if I opted in and was alerted to these possibilities beforehand. A clean and updated contact list is one thing I still dream to have, and there's no way that's going to happen without social network integrationn.

Re: Microsoft and LI
  • 9/28/2016 10:43:55 PM
NO RATINGS

I wish I could say integration would be appealing to me, but it's not. LinkedIn synced with my phone contacts when I updated the app once and I didn't like it at all. LinkedIn started suggesting connections based on calendar information and recent phone calls. It was creepy.

Re: Microsoft and LI
  • 9/28/2016 8:24:31 AM
NO RATINGS

Right, joe, which led to all the talk in the past few years of startup bubbles, followed by most VCs coming to their senses and the funding scene getting a lot harder for founders with only dollar sign eyes and not real viable and innovative business plans.

Re: Microsoft and LI
  • 9/28/2016 4:01:52 AM
NO RATINGS

@tinym One thing I like about an integration between LinkedIn and Outlook is better contacts management. I tend not to manage my Google contacts well anymore because I can reach people easily on Facebook. Now if LinkedIn, Facebook, and Outlook contacts integrate into one database, I'd be compelled to use Microsoft's CRM offerings. I don't think they offer a CRM product for small and micro businesses just yet, but if they eventually do, it'll be an easy sell.

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