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article imageLinkedIn forced to allow AI bots to scrape its data

By James Walker     Aug 15, 2017 in Technology
LinkedIn has been ordered to unblock a startup's access to its data, concluding a legal debate that sets a precedent for the future. LinkedIn sent a cease and desist letter when HiQ Labs started scraping its data. A court allowed the activity to continue.
HiQ Labs is a talent management company that's using LinkedIn's data to train its artificial intelligence models. The company offers other businesses a way to monitor the LinkedIn activity of their employees. If you make a few tweaks to your profile while thinking about switching jobs, the changes could be reported back to your boss.
Microsoft-owned LinkedIn brought a lawsuit against the company, claiming it needed to protect the personal information of its users. It banned HiQ from accessing its data, citing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Digital Millennium Act as preventing invasive scraping activities. The move was criticised as a step backwards for the open Internet.
ZDNet reports a U.S. judge has now found in HiQ Labs' favour. Judge Chen said LinkedIn's views around scraping and data access "could profoundly impact open access to the Internet." He also put forward a suggestion that LinkedIn's actions may have constituted a deliberate attempt to limit competition, a violation of Californian state law.
In a statement today, HiQ Labs attacked LinkedIn's "monopolization" of personal information. The company warned other start-ups not to back away from threats from LinkedIn, saying the company doesn't hold "exclusive control" over data its users create.
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"This ruling allows us to continue serving our clients while we seek to permanently prevent LinkedIn from monopolizing the aggregation and analysis of publicly available information on the web," HiQ said. "This is a step in the right direction to ensure that any person or company looking to build a business on data analytics of public data may do so. This includes any company who may have received a cease-and-desist letter from LinkedIn or other companies trying to exert exclusive control over information designated public by their users."
The case crucially rested on LinkedIn's assertion it could choose how public user data is treated. HiQ argued that since the profiles it scrapes are intentionally marked as "public," their contents should be available for anyone to access. The company’s systems do not scan or collect information from private LinkedIn posts. HiQ's technology is confined to select profiles chosen by its customers.
HiQ previously suggested LinkedIn itself may be planning an expansion into the company's market. Having recently overhauled its website, the service could be about to launch a new set of data analytics tools. HiQ said that's "OK" but shouldn't result in the company "illegally forcing out a competitor." LinkedIn responded to today's ruling by saying it's "disappointed" and will "continue to fight" to protect its users.
More about Linkedin, Artificial intelligence, Ai, Bots, scraping
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