Sticking It to ‘The Man’ Is Expensive, hiQ Learns in Battle with LinkedIn

LinkedIn is in a fight for its very existence.

OK, that might be going a bit overboard. Or maybe it isn’t. In case you haven’t been paying attention, a small company called hiQ is in a legal donnybrook with LinkedIn. Get your deep dive here, but the short of it is hiQ scrapes LinkedIn data for intelligence on candidates for its customers and LinkedIn doesn’t like that, so cease-and-desist letters followed. HiQ said “Cease-and-desist this,” and now it’s a legal battle.

David vs. Goliath. Rocky vs. Apollo Creed. USA vs. USSR. We love a good underdog story, don’t we?

Unfortunately, the underdog rarely wins, especially in a legal system that favors the bigger bank account. While hiQ has won a battle, it’s looking like the war is far from over and its opponent is a well-funded juggernaut armed with an army of lawyers. So says a crowdfunding page on CrowdJustice.

“HiQ is a small startup in a big legal battle with professional-networking giant LinkedIn,” says the page on CrowdJustice. “Your donations will help shape the Internet and help ensure publicly accessible information online remains just that — accessible, discoverable and usable. HiQ won an initial court ruling, but the fight continues with LinkedIn’s appeal of the decision. We beat Goliath once; help us beat him again!”

As of this writing, hiQ has raised $13,525 with a goal of $100,000, which comes out to less than 15 percent of its goal if my math is correct. There are 16 days left to bring in an additional $86,475 and make goal. Unless a sugar daddy shows up soon, it’s likely hiQ will not meet its goal and, as a result, get $0.

“This David vs. Goliath fight will shape the future of the Internet. LinkedIn’s position would literally make it a crime for you to access information that people were promised would be public,” says the funding page. “LinkedIn shouldn’t be allowed to decide that giant search engines like Bing and Google can index public profiles, while forbidding others to access the very same information. Furthermore, LinkedIn uses member information to inform their products, while denying competitors the right to do so.”

HiQ claims the cost to fight an appeal process by LinkedIn will cost it an estimated $700,000. HiQ is a private company, so its revenues are unknown. However, it’s probably fair to say $700,000 is going to take out a big chunk of its operating budget and likely force the company to make some tough decisions about is future. HiQ has 13 employees and was founded in 2012.

Some of the comments from those who have donated are pretty entertaining. “If I wanted my LinkedIn profile private, I would set it to private or not have an account there. I want it public so LinkedIn should keep it public,” says a $25 donor.

“Support this cause! This is a huge deal for anyone working with people data to make better workplaces. Pledge!,” says a $100 donor, and a $50 donor says, “Thank you for fighting to keep publicly accessible data open for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and anyone else who values transparency and accountability!”

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All signs point to LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, who paid $26.2 billion to acquire the company, fighting tooth and nail to protect its data from being accessed by third parties. And even though hiQ “beat Goliath once,” all signs point to a legal system and an appeal process that’s going bleed it dry and eventually hand a victory to LinkedIn.

At least that’s what LinkedIn hopes will happen. The alternative, a court decision that says every Tom, Dick, and recruiting technology can have unhindered access to LinkedIn’s profiles, means a very challenging future for the company. It would also mean that it might have to relinquish the resume database of record mantel to Facebook, who already enjoys a closed ecosystem, protecting the resumes that are posted there from companies like hiQ.

That said, hiQ should make a call to Mark Zuckerberg. Dude’s probably got $700,000 just lying under his couch cushions. If he’s a little shy, CrowdJustice accepts anonymous donations in any denomination.

Joel Cheesman

Joel Cheesman has over 20 years experience in the online recruitment space. He worked for both international and local job boards in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. In 2005, Cheesman founded HRSEO, a search engine marketing company for HR, as well as launching an award-winning industry blog called Cheezhead. He has been featured in Fast Company and US News and World Report. He sold his company in 2009 to Jobing.com. He was employed by EmployeeScreenIQ, a background check company. He is the founder of Ratedly, an app that monitors anonymous employee reviews. He is married and the father of three children. He lives in Indianapolis.