LinkedIn Must Now Allow Companies To Scrape Public Data

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“If you exclude someone from sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, you are excluding them from the modern version of the town square.”

A judge has ruled that Microsoft’s networking and social media service LinkedIn must allow third-party companies to scrape public data posted by users on the site.

The discussion about the privacy of the information a person shares on social media has swirled since the dawn of the internet. Now, a recent court-ruled decision is bringing some clarity to the ambiguity. The lawsuit was brought on by hiQ Labs, a startup that analyzes LinkedIn user data to measure retention rates, so accessible LinkedIn data is essential to their business.

Late last month LinkedIn filed a lawsuit against hiQ Labs demanding them to stop collecting data, saying they used automated and anonymous bots to bypass security and undermine LinkedIn’s privacy commitments. When the suit made headlines, many questioned its wider implications, likening it to a free-speech debate.

“If you exclude someone from sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, you are excluding them from the modern version of the town square,” Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe told a US District Judge on July 27.

HiQ Labs filed a countersuit against the massive networking site. Yesterday that suit came to a head as a judge granted HiQ Labs a preliminary injunction to continue accessing LinkedIn data. The judge said LinkedIn was unfairly leveraging its power and compared its arguments to the notion of allowing sites to “block access by individuals or groups on the basis of race or gender discrimination.”

LinkedIn said in a statement that they were disappointed by the results of the lawsuit.

”This case is not over. We will continue to fight to protect our members’ ability to control the information they make available on LinkedIn,” the statement read.

hiQ Labs declared the victory an important one for companies that rely on publicly accessible data.

“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.

LinkedIn has 400 million members and was acquired by Microsoft for $26 billion last year.

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