Why Scraping is a Billion Dollar Deal – LinkedIn versus HiQ Labs

scraping

Scraping stands for automatically collecting data from publicly available social profiles – in our example Linkedin

Here´s the background:  

Founded in 2002, LinkedIn is a social networking site focused on business and professional networking. It currently has over 500 million users; it was acquired by Microsoft in December 2016 for $26.2 billion.

LinkedIn allows users to create profiles and then establish connections with other users.

When 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:

    1. their direct connections on the site;
    2. a broader network of connections;
    3. all other LinkedIn members; or
    4. the entire public. 

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

 

hiQ was founded in 2012 and has, to date, received $14.5 million in funding. hiQ 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.

Is scraping piggyback business?

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.

hiQ‟s model is predicated entirely on access to data LinkedIn users have opted to publish publicly. hiQ relies on LinkedIn data because LinkedIn is the dominant player in the field of professional networking.

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 posits that when a user updates his profile, that action may signal to his employer that he is looking for a new position. 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: Find legal claim and files on https://www.hiqlabs.com/legal