As you may have heard, a court recently ruled that data scraping of publicly available information is legal. Even if a social media site’s terms and conditions ban the act, it cannot be infringed upon. Find out why this is good news for you as a recruiter and what LinkedIn may do as a result.
HiQ Labs and LinkedIn’s 2017 Court Case
In May 2017, LinkedIn sent a cease and desist letter to hiQ Labs, a San Francisco startup that applies data science to human resources by monitoring changes in employee LinkedIn profiles and other public information to and assigns red, yellow or green fight-risk probabilities to those employees. LinkedIn accused hiQ of violating their user agreement by data scraping or extracting information from social media accounts or websites. LinkedIn blocked hiQ’s access and demanded the company stop using information gathered from LinkedIn. HiQ filed a lawsuit against LinkedIn in June 2017, claiming the company was infringing on antitrust laws. HiQ argued that LinkedIn’s actions limiting their ability to use public profile data is anti-competitive and in violation of data-scrapers’ rights to free speech. Although LinkedIn argued that data scraping equated to theft or violation of users’ privacy, they presented little evidence of users’ privacy expectation. HiQ pointed out that LinkedIn calls itself a community and place to meet, exchange ideas and learn, essentially opening its property to the public. A federal judge ordered LinkedIn to restore hiQ’s ability to access public profiles.
LinkedIn’s 2019 Appeal
In September 2019, the court voted to uphold its 2017 ruling. The panel concluded that LinkedIn users create public profiles to be found online in general as a means of personal branding. Since LinkedIn profiles often are the first links that come up when googling someone’s name, there should be no expectation of privacy. Further, LinkedIn has no protected property interest in user-contributed data because users retain ownership over their profiles.
What the Scraping Ruling Means for Recruiters
As a result of the 2019 scraping ruling, publicly available information posted to social networks may be scraped and aggregated by third parties even if social media sites’ terms and conditions or technical means prevent data mining. Therefore, recruiters can use scraping tools and Chrome extensions to source candidate data to build talent pipelines. Although LinkedIn could invoke a federal law targeting fraud and abuse to block data access from certain users, it most likely would cost the company many users and negatively impact the bottom line. Instead, what LinkedIn may do to protect potential security concerns is require logging in to view publicly available data.
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