In a case that could have major implications for data security in social applications, the U.S. Supreme Court has done so rejected the lower court’s judgment which she had previously banned LinkedIn from denying software recruitment companies hiQ information that LinkedIn members publicly posted in their application.
The case is an example of setting a precedent in the fight against data scraping. Back in 2017, LinkedIn tried to exclude hiQ Labs from its service after discovering that hiQ had scraped LinkedIn users ’data – by collecting personal data on publicly available LinkedIn user profiles – to build its own employment information service.
hiQ Labs uses LinkedIn profile information to build data profiles which can predict when an employee is more likely to leave the company.
As per hiQ height:
“There is more information about your employees outside the walls of your organization than inside it. HiQ processes and uses this public data to guide employee positive actions. Our SaaS machine-based SaaS platform provides flight risks and business imprint skills, enabling HR teams to making better and more reliable decisions about people. “
Note here that ‘public data’ is mentioned here – basically the case of hiQ is the fact that anyone can access that data on LinkedIn, so LinkedIn has no right to restrict their use.
However, LinkedIn reported to hiQ that such use violated its terms and violated user rights because they signed up for LinkedIn and not for other platforms. As a result, LinkedIn has threatened to cut off access to hiQ, leading to hiQ seeking a legal ban to prevent LinkedIn from cutting off access to the data.
Which hiQ won. LinkedIn then tried it appeal the 2019 decision, but it was denied by the American circle of the appellate court. Which, basically, meant that the court’s decision was that it was indeed legal for any company to access and use publicly available user data from any platform, and users have no right to manage this extended use.
Which seems a bit bad, especially given the growing focus on user data privacy. As a result, LinkedIn has since sought an expanded remedy to address its concerns, which led to this latest U.S. Supreme Court decision, which basically returns the decision to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration.
Which is a big profit for LinkedIn – but despite that, there is no guarantee that the Court of Appeals will find a reason to change its original judgment, and broader questions about who owns publicly available data do not cover this specific type of use.
This is an important case, not only for LinkedIn, but for social media platforms in general. Last year, Facebook too initiated legal proceedings against the two companies for similar data scraping, through which these organizations were found to be extracting Facebook user data for use in their own digital intelligence tools.
On the one hand, there is some logic that if this data is publicly available, then there is no legal reason why others cannot use it – although LinkedIn has noticed this that hiQ software bots can collect data on a massive scale, “far greater than what any single person could do when viewing public profiles.”
However, these are publicly available data. But again, as noted, users sign up to the guidelines and rules of use of each individual platform, so they do not give their consent for the same information to be used by other companies.
Is this a sufficient point of view to create new rules around such or will the same finding apply once more?
The answer is not final, but in the evolutionary age of data protection, it seems that laws also need to be developed to cover such cases.
This will be an important case to keep in mind, which could have significant implications for the way social platforms move forward, including potential limitations on the data available to the non-user public.