7th June 2024 - Today, LinkedIn has deprecated  the targeting of adverts based on the personal sensitive data of users on its platform. This change comes in response to a complaint under the Digital Services Act (DSA) to the European Commission brought in February 2024 by European Digital Rights (EDRi), Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte (GFF), Global Witness and Bits of Freedom.

In a major win for civil society, LinkedIn will no longer allow advertisers globally to target users in the European Economic Area (EEA) with adverts based on LinkedIn group names, which can contain or reveal sensitive categories of personal data such as sexuality, political opinions, or race.

The move by LinkedIn addresses the concerns complainants raised that this kind of targeting infringes the DSA's new prohibition of targeting online adverts based on profiling using such sensitive categories of personal data. Unfortunately, the new restrictions will only apply to  adverts that are targeted at people in the EEA. People in other parts of the world will continue to be subjected to this invasive forms of profiling and targeting.

“We are pleased to see that LinkedIn has stopped targeting users based on sensitive personal data  to comply with the Digital Services Act. While tech companies should comply with the DSA proactively, this win underlines the crucial role civil society plays in holding tech companies to account and enforcing European law.” Svea Windwehr (GFF)

“The changes introduced by LinkedIn are a win for privacy and will better protect people from targeted discrimination based on their sensitive characteristics. This case demonstrates that the DSA can work when the European Commission deals with the evidence provided by civil society as quickly and effectively as they did here. We look forward to seeing more of that.” Jan Penfrat (EDRi)

Campaigners fought hard for the European Commission to bring in protections against the worst forms of surveillance advertising in the Digital Services Act and it’s very welcome to see it having impact already. 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.Nienke Palstra (Global Witness)

However, advertisers on LinkedIn will continue to be able to target users based on other categories of personal data, as the scope of the DSA’s ad targeting prohibition is limited to sensitive categories of personal data as defined by Article 9 GDPR.

While the DSA has been effectively enforced in this instance, this example underlines that the law leaves plenty of room for online platforms to target users with online ads using intrusive profiling and that additional legislation is needed to fill the regulatory gaps around commercial surveillance.


In February 2024, European Digital Rights (EDRi), Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte (GFF), Global Witness and Bits of Freedom jointly submitted a complaint regarding potential breaches of the Digital Services Act’s ad targeting restrictions.

LinkedIn is becoming an increasingly big player in online advertising, both globally and in Europe. In 2023 its global annual ad revenue grew to nearly $4 billion, an increase of 10.1 percent from the previous year, according to estimates from Insider Intelligence. LinkedIn’s advertising revenue is predicted to grow further at 14.1 percent in 2024.

Data-driven ad targeting creates an omnipresent system of pervasive surveillance and profiling across the entire internet. Because the profiling and tracking of people online is often invisible, people are unable to exercise their fundamental rights and meaningfully object to being surveilled, targeted and manipulated by the ad industry.

Yet, this industry puts profits before people’s dignity, agency  and privacy. While it is impossible for most people to exert control over what data is collected and by whom, it has a direct impact on what users see online. Losing control of the content people see directly limits their freedom of information and expression, enables discriminatory practices by advertisers and amplifies social stereotyping.

As Global Witness/YouGov polling (2022) in France and Germany shows, people are deeply uncomfortable with their sensitive data being used to target them with ads and a majority oppose any of their personal information being used for advertising.

The fact that the European Commission acted quickly on the complaint brought by European Digital Rights (EDRi), Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte (GFF), Global Witness and Bits of Freedom is a great first step towards ending profiling practices in the ad tech industry that should be followed up with more comprehensive regulation in the future.