Business & Economy

LinkedIn can't stop this company from telling your boss you want to quit, judge says

A sign is posted in front of the LinkedIn headquarters on February 11, 2011 in Mountain View, California.
A sign is posted in front of the LinkedIn headquarters on February 11, 2011 in Mountain View, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A federal judge in San Francisco has ordered LinkedIn to stop blocking a startup company from scraping LinkedIn personal profiles for data.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen has sided with hiQ Labs, a San Francisco company that analyzes workforce data scraped from public profiles. The company uses LinkedIn users' data to track changes, which often indicate who may be looking for work and therefore who may be at risk of leaving their jobs with hiQ clients.

LinkedIn invoked a federal anti-hacking law in telling hiQ to stop. LinkedIn also installed technical blocks to prevent hiQ from accessing otherwise publicly available information on LinkedIn users. Chen's preliminary injunction Monday gives LinkedIn a day to remove those blocks.

In court documents, LinkedIn has argued that users may have an interest in preventing their employers from knowing when they're on the job hunt. hiQ's business model may discourage people from updating their profiles and using the site, LinkedIn says.

LinkedIn originally sent a letter to hiQ in May demanding they stop scraping the site, arguing that their actions were a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

"The copyright argument that LinkedIn is making is not very good. This is not their data, this is our data. The people who use LinkedIn,"  Ken White, an attorney at Brown White & Osborn LLP in Los Angeles told KPCC's AirTalk.

"But on everything else, hiQ is making arguments that are frankly breathtakingly wrong and that would dramatically change the internet if they were accepted."

LinkedIn, which is a part of Microsoft, says it may challenge the ruling.

LinkedIn spokeswoman Nicole Leverich says "we will continue to fight to protect our members' ability to control the information they make available on LinkedIn."

Many companies also oppose data scrapping in favor of licensing data for a fee.

In a statement, hiQ said the company "believes that public data must remain public" and that big companies shouldn't stifle innovation by hoarding public data.