LinkedIn Losing Latest Appeal In Data-Scraping Case
LinkedIn has lost its latest appeal in an ongoing battle against data scraping, with the court ruling going against the platform. The order pointed out that scraping publicly available data is legal and that LinkedIn has no grounds to block third-party providers from scanning its user profiles for their purposes. In 2017, LinkedIn attempted to cut hiQ Labs off from its service after discovering that hiQ had been scraping LinkedIn user data, taking personal information from publicly available LinkedIn user profiles to construct its recruitment information service.
LinkedIn profile information is used by hiQ Labs to create data profiles that can forecast when an employee is more likely to depart a company. HiQ took LinkedIn to court over its access restrictions, and the case has been bouncing through the various appeals systems ever since, becoming a landmark case in the fight against data scraping in general.
Last week, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals (as first reported by TechCrunch), has decided that scraping data publicly available on the internet isn't a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The judgment backs up a 2019 Appeals Court decision that declared it legal for any corporation to access and use publicly available user data from any platform, with users having no control over how this data is used.
"We're disappointed in the court's decision. This is a preliminary ruling, and the case is far from over. We will continue to fight to protect our members' ability to control the information they make available on LinkedIn. That's not okay when your data is taken without permission and used in ways you haven't agreed to. On LinkedIn, our members trust us with their information, so we prohibit unauthorized scraping on our platform."
Understandably, LinkedIn will fight back. As TechCrunch points out, the broader ramifications for data scraping also apply to archivists, academicians, and researchers who utilize technologies to scrape data on a large scale for other purposes.
On the other hand, Meta's legal battle against data-scraping began in 2020, when it sued two companies for using browser extensions to scrape user data from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Amazon to provide marketing intelligence and other services. That case is still pending, and it will be interesting to see how the defense cites the hiQ Labs case as a precedent in this one.
In any case, it appears that present regulations regarding data scraping from social media platforms are outdated. If left intact, it could lead to social applications restricting publicly available user information, which Meta and LinkedIn have already done to a significant extent.
Following the Cambridge Analytica controversy, Meta made significant adjustments to how it displays personal data, while LinkedIn has significantly reduced the information that non-logged-in users can see. However, because LinkedIn receives considerable traffic through Google searches for member and business names, it will likely need to publish certain user information to maximize that access.
It's a complicated topic that will almost certainly necessitate new regulations to cover various uses, and that, hopefully, will be the result of the current push.