Tech

Court rules LinkedIn can not stop startup firm from accessing users' data

Court rules LinkedIn can not stop startup firm from accessing users' data

A federal district court judge on Monday said that LinkedIn can not block a startup company from accessing users' public profile data.

In granting our request for a preliminary injunction against LinkedIn, Judge Chen rejected LinkedIn's attempt to cast hiQ's aggregation and analysis of publicly available information from the LinkedIn website as a violation of a federal criminal statute.

Microsoft, which acquired LinkedIn a year ago for $26.2 billion, was seeking to prevent a startup called HiQ Labs collecting LinkedIn profile data which it uses to create algorithms to predict employee behaviour, like when they might quit.

On Monday, US judge Edward Chen ordered LinkedIn to allow HiQ Labs, a talent management startup, to scrape public profile data.

The court ruled that the social media platform must remove those limitations that prevent other apps from scraping its members' data.

HiQ's operations depend on its ability to access public LinkedIn data.

"LinkedIn has presented little evidence of users' actual privacy expectation; out of its hundreds of millions of users, including 50 million using Do Not Broadcast, LinkedIn has only identified three individual complaints specifically raising concerns about data privacy related to third-party data collection", the order reads. Since Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have collected an enormous amount of user data, they have sought to control access to it, even though that information is often public.

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"This is a step in the right direction to ensure that any person or company looking to build a business on data analytics of public data may do so".

"This is a case with broad ramifications for free speech, competitiveness, and the fair use of material available to all on the internet", Mark Weidick, CEO at HiQ Labs, said in a statement in July.

hiQ has assured LinkedIn users that it only monitors members who work for companies that have engaged its services, and it does not alert bosses when employees make changes to their profiles, according to the BBC.

The decision leaves social media companies in a tricky spot.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn has issued its own statement unsurprisingly saying it is disappointed with the outcome, but vowed to continue its case. It argued that the use of its data in this way was a breach of its terms of service, and potentially went against the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

It also added that it doesn't sell the data collected. We use it only as the basis for the valuable analysis we provide to employers. It is information the members themselves have made a decision to display publicly, and it is available to anyone with access to a web browser.