16 March 2020Rory O'Neill

LinkedIn urges SCOTUS to allow data-scraping ban

Microsoft’s LinkedIn has asked the US Supreme Court to allow the networking platform to block third-parties from “scraping” data publicly available on its users’ profiles.

Data scraping refers to use of computer programmes or bots to extract data from web pages. LinkedIn wants the country’s top court to reverse the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which last year ruled that tech start-up hiQ couldn’t be blocked from scraping public data.

HiQ uses LinkedIn members’ data for products to inform employers which employees are most likely to be recruited by other companies, as well as to summarise employees’ skills.

According to LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, hiQ “surreptitiously employs bots on a massive scale in a systematic effort to evade LinkedIn’s barriers and to amass its own database of information about LinkedIn’s members”.

HiQ successfully argued before the Ninth Circuit that there should be no rule against the scraping of data which is publicly available on LinkedIn member’s profiles.

But in its petition to the Supreme Court, the networking platform argued: “In making their information available on LinkedIn’s website, LinkedIn’s members do not relinquish control of all uses of that information to all persons for all time. To the contrary, LinkedIn gives its members considerable control over how their personal information will be used.”

LinkedIn wants the Supreme Court to rule that the practice is illegal under The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and correct what it says is the Ninth Circuit’s diversion from both that statute and the view of other circuit courts.

The CFAA prohibits “intentionally accesses a computer without authorisation or [exceeding] authorised access”⁠—according to LinkedIn, this extends to bots which scrape and use data commercially without permission.

“The Ninth Circuit’s sharp departure from the existing consensus should be addressed now,” LinkedIn told the Supreme Court.

The case could have significant implications for US law on data-scraping practices.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has backed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, arguing that it came as a “relief to the wide variety of researchers, journalists, and companies who have had reason to fear cease and desist letters threatening liability simply for accessing publicly available information in a way that publishers object to”.

Did you enjoy reading this story?  Sign up to our free daily newsletters and get stories sent like this straight to your inbox.

Today's top stories:

BREAKING: INTA annual meeting to be held in November

Broadcom blames Netflix for harming cable TV industry in patent suit

EUIPO and EPO push deadlines as COVID-19 spreads

Microsoft sues creators of mass-spamming bots for trademark infringement

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at