The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday gave Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) LinkedIn Corp another chance to try to stop rival hiQ Labs Inc 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.
At issue is whether companies can use a federal anti-hacking law called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prohibits accessing a computer without authorization, to block competitors from harvesting or “scraping” vast amounts of customer data from public-facing parts of a website.
The 9th Circuit in 2019 blocked LinkedIn from cutting off hiQ while the litigation continued, ruling that the law at issue likely does not apply in situations in which no authorization is needed to access the data that users have made publicly available.
LinkedIn told the Supreme Court that hiQ’s software “bots” can harvest data on a massive scale, far beyond what any individual person could do when viewing public profiles.
LinkedIn in April said that some of the publicly viewable data of its users had been scraped and posted for sale.
Interesting case to follow, if the bots/scraping ends up damaging the site / taking up resources, or just slurping down so much more than any amount of humans, should it be allowed if it’s public info on a site like LinkedIn? The terms of service probably says no, but if the bot did not agree to that… ?
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