US Supreme Court sends LinkedIn data-scraping suit back to lower court

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The US Supreme Court on Monday gave Microsoft’s LinkedIn another chance to try to stop rival hiQ Labs from harvesting personal data from the professional networking platform’s public profiles; a practice that LinkedIn contends threatens the privacy of its users.

The justices threw out a lower court ruling that had barred LinkedIn from denying hiQ access to the information that LinkedIn members had made publicly available.

The justices sent the dispute back to the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider in light of their June 4 ruling that limited the type of conduct that can be criminally prosecuted under the same law.

In that case, the justices found that a person cannot be guilty of violating that law if they misuse information on a computer that they have permission to access.

The LinkedIn case underscores the increasing importance of personal data on the internet and the ability of companies to profit from that information, while raising questions over who can control and use an individual’s data and for what purpose.

LinkedIn, which has more than 750 million members, told hiQ in 2017 to stop scraping LinkedIn’s public profiles or face liability under the anti-hacking law.

For its part, hiQ uses the data for products that analyze employee skills or alert employers when they could be looking for a new job.

It said LinkedIn issued the threat around the same time LinkedIn announced a similar service to hiQ’s.

It sued in federal court, accusing LinkedIn of anti-competitive conduct, and a federal judge in 2017 granted its request for a preliminary injunction against LinkedIn.

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