LinkedIn has lost an appeal to stop a third-party company from collecting and using information that users of the professional networking website have deemed public.

Start-Up Can Collect Publicly Available Linkedin User Information

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco on Monday upheld an August 2017 court ruling that ordered LinkedIn to stop blocking San Francisco-based start-up hiQ Labs Inc from scraping LinkedIn personal profiles for data.

The injunction required LinkedIn, a part of Microsoft, to give hiQ access to publicly available information on LinkedIn users.

hiQ analyzes workforce data scraped from public profiles. The company uses LinkedIn profile information to build data profiles that can help employers determine an employee's likelihood of staying in or leaving a company.

Impact On Digital Sector's Battle Against Data Scraping

The 3-0 decision could have implications in the digital sector as the case could set back the industry's battle against data scraping, the extraction of information from websites or social media accounts that critics think is tantamount to theft or violative of users' privacy.

LinkedIn said it was disappointed with the decision, but is evaluating its options. The company also said it will fight to protect its members and the information they entrust to it.

Classified ad website Craigslist, which supported LinkedIn's appeal, warned of the dangerous impact of the injunction, as this could make it easier for bad actors to find targets for unwanted text, email, or phone-based marketing.

Information Monopoly

Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon said hiQ showed it faced irreparable harm without an injunction because it could go out of business without access to the information.

She added that allowing companies such as LinkedIn to decide on who can use public user data risks the creation of information monopolies that can harm public internet.

"LinkedIn has no protected property interest in the data contributed by its users, as the users retain ownership over their profiles," Berzon wrote, according to Reuters. "And as to the publicly available profiles, the users quite evidently intend them to be accessed by others."

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