Nation & World

LinkedIn to allow researchers to mine data

Controls will protect user privacy, company says

Business people conducting human interactions. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Business people conducting human interactions. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Once, Facebook allowed academic researchers access to its data. That ended with the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Now LinkedIn, the professional social networking site owned by Microsoft, says it will open its vast trove of data to academic researchers.

But the company, whose chief data officer, Igor Perisic, made the announcement in a blog post Monday, said it’s putting controls in place to protect user privacy.

The data will be restricted only to those whose academic proposals have been approved. The researchers will have only access to aggregate, anonymized data and will be able to use it solely within a secure “sandbox,” Perisic wrote.

That means they won’t be able to download the data themselves.

The academics will not be able to “obtain or retain data beyond the scope of the research project,” LinkedIn said.

Its legal and security teams will vet all proposals to access the data, and only projects related to “economic opportunity with an eye toward enabling a level playing field for economic outcomes” will be approved.

Perisic said in an interview late last week the company mostly was looking to advance the state of knowledge about the labor market and the economy.

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“This is not about having a direct product impact,” he said. But he said that in the past, LinkedIn’s collaboration with academics sometimes has led to improvements in the site.

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