Sci-tech

Judge says LinkedIn can not block third-parties from accessing profile data

Judge says LinkedIn can not block third-parties from accessing profile data

HiQ initiated legal action against LinkedIn in June, alleging that the social network, which has more than 500 million members globally, was in violation of antitrust laws and that it can not prove ownership of the data shared publicly by its members.

LinkedIn claims that using user data in this way, specifically to predict when staff are thinking of leaving their job, isn't acceptable.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction request brought by hiQ Labs, and ordered LinkedIn to remove within 24 hours any technology preventing hiQ from accessing public profiles.

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HiQ Labs in a statement has called the decision an "important victory" for it and similar companies. On 23 May 2017, court filings show, LinkedIn issued its first cease and desist letter against hiQ Labs.

In the case, LinkedIn's legal team said the company faced "significant harm" because hiQ Labs' data collection threatened the privacy of its userbase - because even members who had chosen to make their profiles public were still invested in how their data was used. The judge raised concerns around LinkedIn "unfairly leveraging its power in the professional networking market for an anticompetitive objective", and compared LinkedIn's argument to allowing website owners to "block access by individuals or groups on the basis of race or gender discrimination". "LinkedIn's attempt to wall-off this public information - viewable by anyone with a web browser - is not just a danger to hiQ, but to any company that uses public sources to inform the services they provide".

"If LinkedIn is going to allow profiles to be indexed by search engines to benefit their platform then why shouldn't the rest of the internet benefit from that as well?" she said.

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"We're disappointed in the court's ruling".

HiQ said LinkedIn marketing materials indicate that the professional social network may sell services to third parties based on LinkedIn profile information, whether or not certain information has been marked as private by members.

"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".

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