LinkedIn loses appeal in data scraping case

Kareem Anderson


LinkedIn’s appeal to prevent competing platforms from scrapping its data has been ultimately rejected by the court, again.

The Ninth Circuit court of appeals reaffirmed an earlier decision that archivists, academics, researchers, journalists and competing platforms can target the likes of Linked with tools that scrape and mass collect publicly accessible data.

While LinkedIn was hoping for the US Supreme Court to weigh in on a possible violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as it pertains to competitors scraping its data, the court deferred back to the Ninth Circuit and that court saw no such violation.

The decision marks the second time the Ninth Circuit has weighed in on LinkedIn versus publicly accessible data mining. Despite LinkedIn claiming HiQ Labs breached its Terms of Service (ToS) by scraping its data which should have resulted in a violation of the CFAA, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor or HiQ based on the Supreme Court’s narrow definition of a CFAA violation.

In part, the US Supreme Court used its narrow definition of CFAA violations in a court decision on a years old case Van Buren v. United States, as the basis for its own ruling and the Ninth Circuit expanded on the notion stating “the concept of ‘without authorization’ does not apply to public websites.”

Expectedly, LinkedIn is “disappointed in the court’s decision,” but ultimately sees the Ninth Circuit’s decision as a temporary road bump being only a “preliminary ruling.”

As for what constitutes a CFAA violation at the moment, the US Supreme Court defines it as someone and or entity that gains unauthorized access to a computer system.

The reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s narrow scope was to limit the number of criminal penalties that could be applied with a broader interpretation that would cover a multitude of “commonplace computer activity.”

LinkedIn spokesperson Greg Snapper reiterates that the networking site “will continue to fight to protect our members’ ability to control the information they make available on LinkedIn.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has cosigned LinkedIn’s concerns about individual privacy violations as a result of data scraping but argues that the social networking sought refuge with the incorrect governing body.

According to a 2021 EFF amicus brief, LinkedIn’s attempt to find an immediate injunction to HiQ’s actions, the company invoked the CFAA which deals primarily with hacking. Instead, the EFF is encouraging LinkedIn to join its push for Congress and state legislatures to invoke new consumer privacy laws.