HiQ And LinkedIn Argue In Court Over Publically Accessible Data

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LinkedIn has been battling with HiQ, a data gatherer, to preventing access to publically available information stored on its website. In late August 2017, a judge ruled that LinkedIn had to allow HiQ access to this data. HiQ had been scraping information from LinkedIn until the business social network wrote to the company and asked them to stop. LinkedIn apparently had taken “technological steps” to prevent HiQ from accessing the data, claiming that by doing so, HiQ violated its user agreement. LinkedIn told HiQ that if they continued to try to defeat the protection, this would be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. HiQ didn’t take Microsoft-owned LinkedIn’s threat idly, and took the company to court.

Although the ruling was in favour of HiQ, LinkedIn are planning to appeal. The case is unusual in that it centres around a business data scraping publically available information, rather than trying to access the private data kept on LinkedIn’s servers. In short, as the data being collected by HiQ is publically accessible, the court ruled that LinkedIn could not prove ownership and therefore was unable to prevent others from accessing it.  The ruling forbids LinkedIn from trying to prevent HiQ from accessing this data and to remove whatever protection the company had been employing.

The LinkedIn versus HiQ case could easily be around the issue of free speech. LinkedIn is defending a publically accessible database. HiQ appears to be automating the equivalent of hand writing information down from a website and then transcribing it into another database, where it is being used to train artificially intelligent software. As the data published on the LinkedIn website is publically accessible, the ruling is that LinkedIn does not own it. If LinkedIn does not own this data, their privacy policy does not cover the information – and this means that the publically available data could presumably be used for anything.

There’s nothing new to see here folks, move along, move along! Data publically available on the Internet is readily available for anybody to access. It’s interesting that LinkedIn would move to prevent this data from being scraped, and begs the question if other social media platforms have or are experiencing similar activities, if they try to prevent the data from also being captured. The golden message here is that if you place any data on a public website, you should expect it to be collected.

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