LinkedIn Sued for Harvesting eMail Addresses

24 September 2013 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

A class action was filed alleging that LinkedIn’s advertising revenues are based on “LinkedIn’s practice of breaking into its users’ third party email account, downloading email address...without consent,…and indefinitely stores email addresses…” Perkins et al v. LinkedIn was filed on September 17, 2013 in US District Court for the Northern District of California states that:

LinkedIn intentionally and knowingly created and developed this deceptive advertising scheme to improperly use the names, photographs, likenesses, and identities of Plaintiffs for the purpose of generating substantial profits for LinkedIn.

The Complaint alleges that LinkedIn harvests member email accounts of “Yahoo! Mail, Microsoft Mail, Google Gmail...” So that:

When a new member signed up for LinkedIn, LinkedIn asked for that new user’s external email address. This request is made without any warning of what the email address will be used for.

Few LinkedIn users bother to read the LinkedIn Terms of Service (ToS) which gives LinkedIn a perpetual and irrevocable license to use information pretty much as LinkedIn pleases:

You grant LinkedIn a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royalty-free right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, any information you provide, directly or indirectly to LinkedIn, including, but not limited to, any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques and/or data to the services, you submit to LinkedIn, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties.

The Plaintiffs complain that the ToS and Privacy Policy do not authorize LinkedIn to harvest email information. This will be an interesting case to follow.

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