LinkedIn can't block scrapers from monitoring user activity

Krales  The Verge

LinkedIn, the social media platform for grown-ups, has been ordered by a USA district judge to stop blocking a third-party data company's access to data on its users' public profiles - a ruling that backs up the long-held belief that nothing is truly free on the internet.

On Monday, US judge Edward Chen ordered LinkedIn to allow HiQ Labs, a talent management startup, to scrape public profile data. Moreover, LinkedIn doesn't own the data contained in member profiles.

The plaintiffs in the case, hiQ Labs, sought the injunction against Microsoft after LinkedIn issued a cease-and-desist request and tried to block the startup from using automated data collection tools to read individual profiles and other personal information publicly available on the professional networking website. HiQ is in a legal dispute with LinkedIn, which is accusing HiQ of improperly using data from its site. 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).

In his order, Chen argued that LinkedIn's argument was flawed.

The case is considered to have implications beyond LinkedIn and hiQ Labs.

The firm doesn't monitor all users, just those working for companies that take advantage of its services.

According to Reuters, LinkedIn plans to challenge the decision.

'This case is not over.

This ruling allows us to continue serving our clients while we seek to permanently prevent LinkedIn from monopolizing the aggregation and analysis of publicly available information on the web.

"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".

"HiQ believes that public data must remain public, and innovation on the internet should not be stifled by legal bullying or the anti-competitive hoarding of public data by a small group of powerful companies", the company said in a statement. We use it only as the basis for the valuable analysis we provide to employers.

That sentiment was echoed by Falon Fatemi, chief executive of Node, a San Francisco startup that uses publicly available data and artificial intelligence to help companies identify potential customers.

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

This is the kind of scenario that LinkedIn doesn't want their users to experience.

A trial of the scheme is now being run in San Francisco and Australia, but it could soon be rolled out across the globe.

The social network is planning to appeal.

Mentors will be able to select options about the type of people they are willing to assist, from people in their network and those who attended the same school, to users in the local area and beyond.

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