A couple of years ago, LinkedIn was told by a US federal judge that it can’t block rivals like hiQ Labs from scraping personal data from public profiles. But on Monday, the US Supreme Court threw out that ruling, sending it back to the 9th Circuit of Appeals.
This is due to a recent June 4th decision that restricted the scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a federal anti-hacking law that blocks access to a computer without authorization. In that particular ruling, the Supreme Court had made the decision that a person can’t be guilty of misusing information if they had permission to use the computer in question.
This all started in 2017 when LinkedIn accused hiQ of scraping LinkedIn’s public profiles. hiQ would then use the data to create algorithms that could predict when employees might leave their jobs. LinkedIn said that hiQ was in violation of the anti-hacking law above, while hiQ accused LinkedIn for being anti-competitive. hiQ sued LinkedIn, stating that public data must remain public.
As mentioned, the 9th US Circuit of Appeals prevented LinkedIn from blocking hiQ, stating that the law does not apply in situations where the data is already publicly available. Since then, however, LinkedIn had made its case to the Supreme Court that hiQ’s bots can harvest data on a scale beyond what an individual person can do. Additionally, some of that data had been posted for sale.