May 12, 2020 Top Story

Scraping of Public Data Likely Does Not Violate CFAA

Restricting use of publicly available data violates public interest

By Catherine M. Chiccine

Scraping of public data from websites such as LinkedIn likely does not violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, narrowly interpreting the statute. The court also cautioned that restricting use of public user data risks creating “information monopolies” that harm the public interest. ABA Section of Litigation leaders warn that this ruling will affect the handling of public data, resulting in implications for companies and the public.        

Mining data from public websites such as LinkedIn ruled permissible.

Mining data from public websites such as LinkedIn ruled permissible.

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HiQ Labs v. LinkedIn

In HiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corporation, the plaintiff, a data analytics company, scraped information that LinkedIn users had placed on their public LinkedIn profiles. The plaintiff then sold this information to business clients in order to help them offer perks to retain valuable employees and identify skill gaps in their workforces. LinkedIn sent the plaintiff a cease-and-desist letter demanding that the plaintiff stop accessing and copying data from the LinkedIn server and threatened to invoke the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

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