Microsoft to 600 million Indians: feel free to hand over some data

LinkedIn adds Hindi service to target the world's third-most-spoken language


Microsoft's social network LinkedIn has added a Hindi version of its service.

File this one under "what took you so long?" because, as LinkedIn's announcement notes, over 600 million people speak Hindi. That makes it the third-most-spoken language in the world, behind English and Mandarin. LinkedIn already serves languages with far fewer speakers, including Norwegian or Thai.

That the service has amassed over 82 million Indian users – its second-largest national population – without supporting Hindi suggests the network's reasoning: English is widely spoken in India and very widely used in business, academia, the media, and of course the technology industry.

But LinkedIn wants more users, so has added the extra language.

"You will now be able to create your LinkedIn profile in Hindi, making it easier for other Hindi-speaking members and recruiters to find you for relevant opportunities," announced LinkedIn's country manager Ashutosh Gupta. "You can also access the feed, jobs, messaging, and create content in Hindi.

"As the next step, we're working towards widening the range of job opportunities available for Hindi-speaking professionals across industries, including more banking and government jobs," Gupta added.

Left unspoken is that LinkedIn charges for job ads, mines user-provided data to target ads, and sells access to members' career histories and other data through its premium programs. Recruitment consultants use those histories to create their own databases.

Gupta has promised Hindi speakers that they'll soon see a feed of useful info and job ads in their language.

The social network won't stop at Hindi. Gupta's post promises the outfit "will continue to evaluate other regional languages as we strive to create equitable economic opportunities for every member of the workforce, and to help diverse professional communities come together on LinkedIn."

Nearly 100 million Indians speak Bengali, while more than 80 million speak either Marathi or Telugu. All three language groups are larger than many already served by LinkedIn. The Register fancies it therefore won't be long before LinkedIn adds more Indian languages to its offering – especially as the regions in which they are spoken become home to more service industries.

India's Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code – a regulation that requires identification of users, removal of some content, and a fast-acting grievance mechanism – will almost certainly apply to LinkedIn.

The Code has been widely criticised as effectively allowing India's government to break encryption.

It is also popular with many. Indian attitudes to social media have hardened in recent years as operators have been seen to ignore cultural norms, spread disinformation, and sometimes espouse a neo-colonial mission to civilise that is not appreciated.

When LinkedIn carries material that offends, leaks data, or endures another round of mass scraping, Microsoft India will need to brace for some backlash. And if LinkedIn's Hindi-speaking users don't take kindly to the service's standard fare – endless weak rehashes of Ted talks, memes about good attitude costing nothing, or homilies about digital transformation – that backlash could be fierce. ®

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