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The US Ninth Circuit of Appeals legalized web scraping of publicly available data

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit legalized web scraping of the information that is available on public websites, which is great news of relief for research groups, along with reporters.

In 2021, LinkedIn Corporation registered a legal claim in the US Ninth Circuit, opposing a competitor company HiQ Labs Inc, for extracting its users’ information that they provided on the LinkedIn platform. HiQ Labs extracts the overtly available information in order to study employee turnover. As per LinkedIn’s policy terms, extracting their users’ information is illicit and any similar act is equivalent to hacking, which is regarded as a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Unfortunately, LinkedIn Corporation failed to protect the privacy of its users in the initial proceeding as the Ninth Circuit declared that extracting data that is assessed easily through public websites is not considered illegal nor does it breach any law of CFAA.

In June 2021, LinkedIn Corporation registered a second lawsuit, and that was forwarded to the US Supreme Court, by the Ninth Circuit, who then confined the CFAA violating laws and concluded that when some social networking site generally allows everyone to access their data, a user’s accessing that information will need no further authorization, as the site’s gates are open.

The US Supreme Court then handed over the lawsuit again to the Ninth Circuit, who restated the prior verdict and confirmed that extraction (web harvesting) of the information that is easily accessible on any of the public sites is not illegal and nor does it comes under the violating laws of CFAA, which also means that browse hacking is considered as a part of the US laws.

LinkedIn Corporation showed immense disappointment in the final verdict given by the court because according to them, data scraping from online sites is equivalent to hacking which is against their privacy policy, so they carried on with the battle for a long period to fight for the rights of their LinkedIn members. Even after being unsuccessful in the first lawsuit, back in 2019, they did not stop and kept on fighting for the protection of their users.

Greg Snapper, one of the spokespeople of LinkedIn stated that this is merely the beginning of the lawsuit, which is yet to be fought, and that they are determined to fight for the rights and protection of their users’ privacy. They will allow them to manage their own data they provided on LinkedIn because it is unethical if your provided information is rolled out to the public and used for other purposes without your consent. Because the users put their trust in you when they provide such information, it refrains LinkedIn from disclosing their information and undergoing scraping.

This final decision is a good fortune for those information professionals – such as research workers, archivers, and reporters – who collect, verify, manage, and spread information and whose work solely depends upon extracting the information that is available on public sites. If the final decision was in favor of LinkedIn – illegalizing extraction of web information – then the massive projects of archiving the sites and making use of online widely available information for experiments and investigations would have still been legal oblivion.

Moreover, a lot of shocking and horrific incidents of extraction of web information were reported due to which users raised their privacy concerns. The very well-known facial recognition platform, Clearview Al, acknowledged that they have extracted thousands of millions of display pictures of media users, which resulted in some technology giants charging cases against them. Facebook, Clubhouse, Parler, and many other tech companies also used to scrap users’ data over time.


H/T: TC.

Read next: Can the Metaverse Coexist With Data Privacy Laws? 33% of Devs Have Misgivings

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