LinkedIn loses legal right to block startup from public profile data

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A Judge on Monday ruled that an analytics company has the right to scrape data from LinkedIn .

HiQ, the data gatherer, has been processing publicly available data from LinkedIn and using it to train AI models, until May when LinkedIn demanded it stop.  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 in a test of how much control a social media site can wield over information its users have deemed to be public.

The letter indicated that LinkedIn had taken technological steps to prevent HiQ from continued scraping, and that further attempts to circumvent such protections would be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

The ruling, which LinkedIn plans to appeal, sets the stage for what could turn out to be a free-speech argument. According to Reuters a LinkedIn spokesperson said:

We’re disappointed in the court’s ruling; this case is not over. We will continue to fight to protect our members’ ability to control the information they make available on the professional social media platform.

Since the data was made publicly available by the users posting it, LI was not able to prove ownership of it to a degree that gives it the right to block others from accessing it.

Anyone could, theoretically, click on every profile and use a pen and paper to copy all the info, and then feed the data into a computer. If they had enough time and manpower. Of course, this would be ridiculous and inefficient, which is why such tasks are done using an algorithm that gathers and sorts data.

The question that remains: is it okay to implement technological measures to stop robots from scraping your website for data?

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