Appeals court upholds ruling that permits public data to be scraped from LinkedIn profiles

Microsoft has lost an appeal aimed at preventing companies from scraping public data from LinkedIn profiles.

Back in 2017, Microsoft sought to block hiQ Labs Inc from using bots to gather information from profiles which it then used to help employers predict if or when people will quit their jobs. At the time, a court ruled that Microsoft could not block hiQ Labs from scraping data in this way; now an appeal court has upheld the original decision.

The case was heard in the US Circuit Court of Appeals, and in a 3-0 decision it was ruled that there was nothing wrong with what hiQ Labs is doing. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon said that data that had been made public by users was freely available and LinkedIn cannot limit who has access to it. To do so would risk creating "information monopolies", she said.

In her ruling, Berzon wrote:

LinkedIn has no protected property interest in the data contributed by its users, as the users retain ownership over their profiles. And as to the publicly available profiles, the users quite evidently intend them to be accessed by others.

One of the reasons given for the decision was that "there is little evidence that LinkedIn users who choose to make their profiles public actually maintain an expectation of privacy with respect to the information that they post publicly".

The ruling has not gone down well with privacy advocates, and LinkedIn responded saying that it will "fight to protect our members and the information they entrust" to the company.

Image credit: dennizn / Shutterstock

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