As you’ve probably heard by now, in a 3-0 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its 2017 ruling, blocking LinkedIn’s efforts to stop hiQ from using information that users have deemed public. “The panel concluded that hiQ established a likelihood of irreparable harm because the survival of its business was threatened,” Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon said.
hiQ creates software helping employers determine whether employees plan to stay or leave a company and primarily used data that was scraped from public LinkedIn profile pages.
The panel concluded that “there is little evidence that LinkedIn users who choose to make their profiles public actually maintain an expectation of privacy with respect to the information that they post publicly, and it is doubtful that they do.”
I would argue that, in fact, users on LinkedIn create public profiles specifically to be found online as a whole … not just on Linkedin. It’s great personal branding and usually one of the first links that come up when you Google someone’s name.
“LinkedIn has no protected property interest in the data contributed by its users, as the users retain ownership over their profiles,” Berzon says. “And as to the publicly available profiles, the users quite evidently intend them to be accessed by others,” including prospective employers.
What This Means
This ultimately blocks LinkedIn, and companies like LinkedIn, from having free reign to decide who has access to their user’s public information and who doesn’t. This effectively takes a weed wacker to its walled garden and potentially opens back up the flood gates for open web sourcing tools like Entelo, Hiretual, and others to use public profile data on LinkedIn. That is until LinkedIn decides to update its TOS and take the ownership of public profile data away from its users. But that would likely be a bad idea for the reasons I shared above and sentiment shared by the panel of judges in this case.
This is a huge win for many of the scraping tools and Chrome extensions that recruiters and sourcers have loved to use over the years that LinkedIn has blocked from its site. It’s also good news for recruiters who LinkedIn has been putting into what people like to call “Linkedin Jail” for using said extensions and tools.