LinkedIn, Linked Out

Last week, we wrote a brief post announcing a lawsuit against the businessman’s Facebook, LinkedIn. Today we will go further in depth as to the first three questions raised in the complaint as well as arguments the plaintiffs might decide to make in pursuance of their claims.

Was LinkedIn Plotting to Access Users’ E-mail Accounts?

It appears that LinkedIn has run into the same type of privacy concerns as Facebook. New users are required to disclose their e-mail address to sign up with LinkedIn. According to the complaint, LinkedIn used that information to gain access to e-mail accounts, harvest their email address books, and then send invitation e-mails to users’ contacts. For obvious reasons, the plaintiff’s found this practice objectionable and filed a class action suit.

California’s Common Law Right of Publicity

The plaintiffs filed the first count under California’s common law Right of Publicity. This law prevents the unauthorized use of another’s likeness for commercial gain. In this case, there obviously was commercial gain on the part of LinkedIn. Their profits are directly tied to the number of members signed up for the site. The question for this claim is whether or not the use of the users’ likenesses was authorized. Ultimately, it is a near certainty that the terms of service had at least some provision that allowed this data-mining. The plaintiffs may find it difficult to prevail on this claim depending on LinkedIn’s terms of service.

California’s State Laws Regarding the Use of Computer Data

The second count accuses LinkedIn of violating a number of California state laws regarding the use of computer data. The count claims that LinkedIn’s conduct was “fraudulent”, “unfair” and “unlawful”. Of course, it can be quite difficult to prove fraud, and the plaintiffs’ claim that LinkedIn “knowingly misrepresent[ed]” its services to its users in order to gain access to their email address lists is going is a high burden to prove. Once again, it seems like that this count will live or die by the terms of service.

Federal Statues Unauthorized Access to Electronic Information

The third count alleges that LinkedIn violated federal statutes that deal with unauthorized access to electronic information. Essentially, the plaintiffs are accusing LinkedIn of gaining access to their email accounts without permission. While it seems that there is not much dispute that LinkedIn did access that information, it seems unlikely that they would brazenly violate the law in such a manner. There, once again, is likely some provision in their terms of service that allowed for them to do such. The interpretation of that provision is what will likely be the dispositive factor for this count. Our next post will go over the final three questions raised in the complaint.

If you have a lawsuit to file or a privacy concern, contact us at (312) 223-1699.

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