LinkedIn must face a privacy lawsuit by customers over certain emails

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A US federal judge is ordering LinkedIn to face a lawsuit from users claiming the network sent emails without their consent. District judge Lucy Koh found that LinkedIn violated users’ privacy by accessing their email accounts, downloading their contacts’ email addresses, and soliciting business from them. While users did agree to the company sending an initial email to attempt to recruit from their contacts, they did not agree to LinkedIn sending further “reminder” emails. These extra emails “could injure users’ reputations by allowing contacts to think that the users are the types of people who spam their contacts or are unable to take the hint that their contacts do not want to join their LinkedIn network,” she wrote in her decision. “In fact, by stating a mere three screens before the disclosure regarding the first invitation that ‘We will not … email anyone without your permission,’ LinkedIn may have actively led users astray.”

A federal judge said on Thursday that LinkedIn must face a lawsuit by customers who claimed it violated their privacy by accessing their external email accounts, downloading their contacts’ email addresses and soliciting business from those contacts. US district judge Lucy Koh, in San Jose, California, found that while customers consented to LinkedIn’s sending an initial “endorsement email” to recruit contacts, they did not agree to let the professional networking website operator send two reminder emails when the initial email is ignored. This practice “could injure users’ reputations by allowing contacts to think that the users are the types of people who spam their contacts or are unable to take the hint that their contacts do not want to join their LinkedIn network”, Koh wrote in a 39-page decision released on Thursday. “In fact,” she added, “by stating a mere three screens before the disclosure regarding the first invitation that ‘We will not … email anyone without your permission,’ LinkedIn may have actively led users astray.” Koh said customers may pursue claims that LinkedIn violated their right of publicity, which protects them from unauthorised use of their names and likenesses for commercial purposes, and violated a California unfair competition law. She dismissed other claims, including a claim that LinkedIn violated a federal wiretap law, and said customers may file an amended lawsuit.

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