• 09/23/2013
    11:24 AM
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LinkedIn Responds To Email-Grabbing Suit

Complaint filed in federal court last week alleges LinkedIn harvested users' email address book information inappropriately; LinkedIn denies this.
LinkedIn: 10 Important Changesr
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LinkedIn: 10 Important Changes
Professional social networking site LinkedIn denied charges that it breaks into member email accounts and uploads their address books.

In a 46-page complaint filed on Tuesday in a San Jose, Calif., federal court, four LinkedIn users seeking class-action status accused the company of impersonating them in order to obtain access to their email contacts.

"When users sign up for LinkedIn they are required to provide an external email address as their username and to set up a new password for their LinkedIn account," the complaint said. "If a LinkedIn user leaves an external email account open, LinkedIn pretends to be that user and downloads the email addresses contained anywhere in that account to Linkedln's servers. LinkedIn is able to download these addresses without requesting the password for the external email accounts or obtaining users' consent."

[ It's a good idea to refresh your LinkedIn profile once a month. Read more: LinkedIn Tips: 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Profile. ]

The plaintiffs said that LinkedIn sends multiple emails endorsing its products, services and brand to potential new users whose email addresses LinkedIn "surreptitiously obtained" as part of its effort to acquire potential new users, according to the complaint. They also claimed that the professional social network sends additional emails to those email addresses when those users don't sign up for a LinkedIn account.

"Each of these reminder emails contains the LinkedIn member's name and likeness so as to appear that the LinkedIn member is endorsing LinkedIn," the complaint said. "These reminder emails are sent to the email addresses obtained from the member's external email account without notice or consent from the LinkedIn member."

The complaint also noted that users have complained to LinkedIn about its "unethical harvesting" of email addresses and repeated spamming, and have "suffered loss by reason of these violations, including […] the right of privacy and deprivation of the loss of value in their personally identifiable information." The plaintiffs are asking the court for damages and an order to prohibit LinkedIn from continuing its "wrongful and unlawful acts."

Blake Lawit, LinkedIn's senior director of litigation, responded to the charges over the weekend and said the allegations are not true. According to his post on the company's blog, LinkedIn does not access a user's email account without his or her permission; it does not deceive users in order to access their email accounts; and it doesn't send messages to join LinkedIn on members' behalf to anyone unless the member has given it permission to do so.

"We do give you the choice to share your email contacts so you can connect on LinkedIn with other professionals that you know and trust," he said. "We will continue to do everything we can to make our communications about how to do this as clear as possible."


re: LinkedIn Responds To Email-Grabbing Suit

I can't speak to whether LinkedIn is harvesting my email address book, but I've been getting some funky emails from the company recently. One said that a colleague had updated his LinkedIn profile with new skills, and when I asked him about those skills, he said he had done no such updating.

re: LinkedIn Responds To Email-Grabbing Suit

I believe LinkedIn uses "Big Data" to come up with a list of contacts you may know, analyzing several components from your profile and authorized contact lists. If unauthorized e-mail access is a part of it that's disappointing, but I'm of the mindset that with enough analytic power they could come up with a similar contact list anyway.

Does anyone have any examples of when a grossly out-of-network acquaintance was contacted on their behalf by LinkedIn?

re: LinkedIn Responds To Email-Grabbing Suit

The secret harvesting of email contacts, particularly from mobile devices is very much rooted in fact. I access LI almost exclusively from an android tablet; naturally, I use gmail. Oddly enough, w/o having given any authorization, my contacts appear in the LI app as networking suggestions. Suffice to say, not all of these contacts are desirable candidates for profl networking endeavors, and, now thanks to LIs disregard for my privacy, these contacts were sent connection invitations not once, but twice. LI has a lot to answer for now that it is the belle of the Dow Jones ball.