Scraping stands for automatically collecting data from publicly available social profiles

Here´s the background:

LinkedIn allows users to create profiles and then establish connections with other users. LinkedIn users create a profile on the site, they can choose from a variety of different levels of privacy protection. They can choose to keep their profiles entirely private or to make them viewable by:

  • their direct connections to
  • a broader network of connections
  • all other LinkedIn members or
  • the entire public

When users choose the last option, their profiles are viewable by anyone online regardless of whether that person is a member. LinkedIn also allows public profiles to be accessed via search engines such as Google. This comes with consequences.

hiQ is scraping LinkedIn

hiQ gathers the workforce data that forms the foundation of its analytics by automatically collecting it, or harvesting or “scraping” it, from publicly available LinkedIn profiles. The company sells to its client businesses information about their workforces that hiQ generates through analysis of data on LinkedIn users‟ publicly available profiles. It offers two products: “Keeper,” which tells employers which of their employees are at the greatest risk of being recruited away; and “Skill Mapper,” which provides a summary of the skills possessed by individual workers.

LinkedIn argues that it faces significant harm because hiQ‟s data collection threatens the privacy of LinkedIn users because even members who opt to make their profiles publicly viewable retain a significant interest in controlling the use and visibility of their data. In particular, LinkedIn points to the interest that some users may have in preventing employers or other parties from tracking changes they have made to their profiles. LinkedIn posts that when a user updates his profile, that action may signal to his employer that he is looking for a new position.

Do Not Broadcast

LinkedIn states that over 50 million LinkedIn members have used a “Do Not Broadcast” feature that prevents the site from notifying other users when a member makes profile changes. This feature is available even when a profile is set to public.

LinkedIn also points to specific user complaints it has received objecting to the use of data by third parties. In particular, two users complained that information that they had previously featured on their profile but subsequently removed, remained viewable via third parties. LinkedIn maintains that all of these concerns are potentially undermined by hiQ‟s data collection practices: while the information that hiQ seeks to collect is publicly viewable, the posting of changes to a profile may raise the risk that a current employee may be rated as having a higher risk of flight under Keeper even though the employee chose the Do Not Broadcast setting.

HiQ could also make data from users available even after those users have removed it from their profiles or deleted their profiles altogether. LinkedIn argues that both it and its users, therefore, face substantial harm absent an injunction; if hiQ is able to continue its data collection unabated, LinkedIn members‟ privacy may be compromised, and the company will suffer a corresponding loss of consumer trust and confidence.

Source:  www.hiqlabs.com/legal (12/2017)


axelhoehnke

I have served media and tech firms from Israel, US and Scandinavia for 20+ years. My sector expertise is Digital Platforms, especially Mobile & Connected Services.