Microsoft’s LinkedIn loses appeal over access to user profiles

LinkedIn’s effort to stop a San Francisco company has been rejected by an appeals court. (AFP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Microsoft’s LinkedIn loses appeal over access to user profiles

  • The 3-0 decision by the San Francisco appeals court sets back Silicon Valley’s battle against “data scraping,”
  • LinkedIn said it was disappointed with the decision and evaluating its options

A federal appeals court on Monday rejected LinkedIn’s effort to stop a San Francisco company from using information that users of the professional networking website have deemed public.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals let stand an August 2017 preliminary injunction that required LinkedIn, a Microsoft Corp. unit with more than 645 million members, to give hiQ Labs Inc. access to publicly available member profiles.
The 3-0 decision by the San Francisco appeals court sets back Silicon Valley’s battle against “data scraping,” or extracting information from social media accounts or websites, which critics say can equate to theft or violate users’ privacy.
Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon said hiQ, which makes software to help employers determine whether employees will stay or quit, showed it faced irreparable harm absent an injunction because it might go out of business without access.
She also said giving companies such as LinkedIn “free rein” over who can use public user data risked creating “information monopolies” that harm the public interest.
“LinkedIn has no protected property interest in the data contributed by its users, as the users retain ownership over their profiles,” Berzon wrote. “And as to the publicly available profiles, the users quite evidently intend them to be accessed by others,” including prospective employers.
In a statement, LinkedIn said it was disappointed with the decision and evaluating its options, and will “fight to protect our members and the information they entrust” to it.
Lawyers for hiQ did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The case was returned to US District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco, who issued the injunction.
Craigslist, the classified ad website, had supported LinkedIn’s appeal, warning that the injunction could have a “dangerous impact” by making it easier for “bad actors” to find targets for unwanted email, text or phone-based marketing.
Berzon said, however, hiQ had raised serious questions about LinkedIn’s conduct, including whether it could invoke a federal law targeting computer fraud and abuse to block “free riders” from accessing user data.
“Of course, LinkedIn could satisfy its ‘free rider’ concern by eliminating the public access option, albeit at a cost to the preferences of many users and, possibly, to its own bottom line,” she wrote.
Gregory Garre, a former US solicitor general under President George W. Bush representing craigslist, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Donald Verrilli, a solicitor general under President Barack Obama, represented LinkedIn. Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe was one of hiQ’s lawyers.
 


European jobless rate up modestly, Germany mulls stimulus

Updated 04 June 2020

European jobless rate up modestly, Germany mulls stimulus

  • Europe’s rise in unemployment has been moderate by international standards

BERLIN: Europe’s unemployment rate ticked up modestly last month, contained by use of labor programs that have kept millions of workers on payrolls, official data showed Wednesday.

The jobless rate in the 19 countries that use the euro rose to 7.3 percent in April, the first full month when pandemic lockdowns hit the continent, from 7.1 percent in March, statistics agency Eurostat said Wednesday.

Europe’s rise in unemployment has been moderate by international standards because employers are making extensive use of government-backed short-time work programs that allows them to keep employees on the payroll while they await better times.

In Germany, Europe’s largest economy, the federal labor agency pays at least 60 percent of the salary of employees who are on reduced or zero hours. Some 10.66 million people were registered for that program in March and April, and 1.06 million followed in May, the labor agency said — though it stressed that this doesn’t mean all of them were put on short-time work. Germany has a population of 83 million.

In the US, which has fewer automatic furlough schemes than Europe, the jobless rate has rocketed to almost 15 percent from 4 percent before the crisis.

The European jobless figures, however, also appear flattered by the fact that some unemployed people likely stopped looking for work and stopped counting as jobseekers.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition was spending a second day hammering out a stimulus package meant to help kick-start the economy. It’s expected to be worth as much as €80-€100 billion ($89-112 billion).

Germany started loosening coronavirus restrictions on April 20, about a month after they were introduced, and the easing has gathered pace since. However, the economy went into a recession in the first quarter and that is expected to deepen in the current quarter.