Judge says LinkedIn cannot block third-parties from accessing profile data

The ruling may have implications for social media users wishing to control how their data is collected

LinkedIn

A US federal judge has ruled that Microsoft cannot block a startup from accessing data held on its LinkedIn platform, a decision that is likely to have further implications for social media companies wishing to control data that is considered publicly available.

San Francisco judge Edward Chen sided with tech firm hiQ Labs, granting a preliminary injunction that ordered LinkedIn to remove any blocks preventing the startup from accessing profile data, according to Reuters.

"To the extent LinkedIn has already put in place technology to prevent hiQ from accessing these public profiles, it is ordered to remove any such barriers," read the court order.

HiQ Labs required access to the data, which is considered publicly available, to build algorithms designed to predict employee behaviour through their social media activities. The service provides "a crystal ball that helps you determine skills gaps or turnover risks months ahead of time", according to its website, essentially alerting bosses to employees thinking of leaving a firm.

The company has hailed the ruling as a major victory for those relying on public data to deliver services.

"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 to Reuters.

LinkedIn has been battling with the startup since May, when it sent a cease and desist order to hiQ Labs in an effort to stop the company lifting profile 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).

LinkedIn said it planned to challenge the decision, according to a statement to Reuters.

"We're disappointed in the court's ruling," said LinkedIn spokeswoman Nicole Leverich, to IT Pro. "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 decision leaves social media companies in a tricky spot. Users signing up to the service, particularly job hunting sites like LinkedIn, rely on the ability to have their profile publicly accessible to others, yet they do not necessarily want their data being used by third-party platforms. Currently, the only way to prevent data from being scalped from social media sites is to make your account private.

Featured Resources

Digital document processes in 2020: A spotlight on Western Europe

The shift from best practice to business necessity

Download now

Four security considerations for cloud migration

The good, the bad, and the ugly of cloud computing

Download now

VR leads the way in manufacturing

How VR is digitally transforming our world

Download now

Deeper than digital

Top-performing modern enterprises show why more perfect software is fundamental to success

Download now

Recommended

Webhose and Signal Corp boost data breach detection
Security

Webhose and Signal Corp boost data breach detection

7 Oct 2020
ICO to relax GDPR enforcement during coronavirus economic downturn
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

ICO to relax GDPR enforcement during coronavirus economic downturn

16 Apr 2020
The NHS teams up with Apple and Google on coronavirus tracking app
privacy

The NHS teams up with Apple and Google on coronavirus tracking app

14 Apr 2020
Health sites are 'unlawfully' sharing medical data with Facebook and Google
data protection

Health sites are 'unlawfully' sharing medical data with Facebook and Google

7 Apr 2020

Most Popular

The top 12 password-cracking techniques used by hackers
Security

The top 12 password-cracking techniques used by hackers

5 Oct 2020
Google blocked record-breaking 2.5Tbps DDoS attack in 2017
Security

Google blocked record-breaking 2.5Tbps DDoS attack in 2017

19 Oct 2020
What is a 502 bad gateway and how do you fix it?
web hosting

What is a 502 bad gateway and how do you fix it?

5 Oct 2020