For millions of users, the business-oriented social networking site LinkedIn has been a way up in the world, creating connections that result in employment, sales, and advancement. According to Visual.ly*, the site creates ten million endorsements each day amongst the two hundred million users while one in three users visit the site daily.
Yet users who log onto the network each day have their information mined by LinkedIn in order to generate new hits and interest for the site. A lawsuit has surfaced in California against LinkedIn, but does this suggest a failure of the service or just a new black eye for social networking?
Mail In, Mail Out
Anyone with a LinkedIn account knows that their available pool of followers and contacts can be expanded using the email distribution network. The email address you use to register on the website can be easily accessed by LinkedIn in order to determine any users on the network you have sent or received mail from who can be connected. This data mining, which InfoWorld described as not specifically illegal but very certainly sleazy, represents a new battle in the digital war for online privacy amidst social networks.*
Terms Of Agreement
Like nearly any other subscription-based website on the Internet, LinkedIn users choose an email address with which to sign up for the service. After reading the terms of agreement for creating a page on the network, users click "I Agree" and their email addresses become subjugated to the data mining algorithm. Since users clicked away their rights to privacy, LinkedIn has a clean legal standing. Bloomberg News published a statement from the network's spokesman in which LinkedIn maintained its position that they have every right to utilize email listings because each user agreed to the terms, and that they have been forward about their use of customer data creation and analysis.
On Muddled Ground
The legal standing for LinkedIn's customers bringing a case against the site has dubious merits. The New York Times reports that the official legal question involves the issue of consent over this data mining, since a user can approve of the company sending invitations and messages to hundreds of people with a click of a button, sometimes without ever realizing it. The attorneys for the case will likely take months, if not years, to push the case through courts as they argue over legal minutae, making it a long and more expensive process than typical litigation. Any LinkedIn user seeking resources for launching their own case against the company can utilize AnyLawsuit.com* in order to get the financial backing for a legal decision. Class action suits usually take precedence over individual lawsuits against a company, but only a few individuals have stepped forward to launch a class action suit.
Existing LinkedIn users should carefully look through the site's privacy and messaging controls to ensure they do not spam hundreds of contacts (including those they have not talked to in years) with the network's contact information.
Cecilia Buchanan -- Cecilia focuses on building successful small business teams.