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LinkedIn given another chance to stop data scraping

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The US Supreme Court has given LinkedIn (opens in new tab) another chance to try to prevent a company from harvesting personal data from its public profiles.

A couple of years ago, a US federal court told the Microsoft-owned  professional networking platform that it could not block companies like hiQ Labs from scraping personal data from public profiles. 

Talent management (opens in new tab) company hiQ Labs uses public data to analyze employee attrition, which is a use-case that LinkedIn contended threatened the privacy of its users. While the Supreme Court said it would not take on the case, it did order the 9th Circuit of Appeals court to hear the case again. 

The CFAA

Reporting on the development, Engadget (opens in new tab) notes that the bone of contention in the case is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA, which prohibits accessing a computer without authorization.

In the original case, LinkedIn argued that the mass scraping of its users’ profiles was in violation of the CFAA. The court however sided with hiQ Labs which was of the opinion that a ruling against data scraping could “profoundly impact open access to the Internet.” 

However, a recent development has brought the issue back to the surface. TechCrunch (opens in new tab) explains that in a recent case, the Supreme Court ruled that a person cannot violate the CFAA if they improperly access data on a computer they have permission to use.

The case involved a police officer combing through the license plate database for an acquaintance in exchange for cash. The Supreme Court found this wasn’t in violation of the CFAA, in a way imposing a limit on what kind of conduct can be prosecuted, enabling LinkedIn to make its case again.

Privacy advocacy groups such as the Electronics Frontier Foundation (EFF (opens in new tab)) have been critical of the CFAA (opens in new tab) arguing that the three-decade old law wasn’t framed keeping in mind the sensibilities of the Internet-age.

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.