User Tries To Salvage Privacy Lawsuit Against LinkedIn, Argues Information Is Property

Web user Kevin Low has revised his complaint against LinkedIn, in a last-ditch attempt to keep alive a lawsuit accusing the social networking company of violating his privacy by “leaking” information about him to advertisers.

Low originally sued LinkedIn in March, but case was dismissed last month by U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif. Koh ruled that Low hadn't spelled out exactly how LinkedIn allegedly leaked data about him, or how he was harmed by any potential disclosures.

Low's new papers, filed earlier this month, go into greater detail about how users' identities can be leaked to ad networks via referrer headers -- the URLs transmitted by publishers to outside companies. Low asserts that his LinkedIn user ID is embedded in the referrer header that the company transmits to analytics companies and advertisers. That data gave outside companies the ability to connect Low's identity with his activity on other sites, he alleges in the amended complaint.



Low also makes the argument that he was harmed because “personal information is property,” and its value was diminished by the leakage.

That theory, however, might not fly, says Internet legal expert Venkat Balasubramani. “The allegations of harm are still very, very general,” he tells MediaPost. “He relies on the personal-information-as-property argument which, I think, courts are not entirely persuaded by,” Balasubramani adds. The situation might be different, Balasubramani says, if Low could offer some specific way he was harmed by the alleged privacy breach -- such as being denied a job, or insurance.

In fact, Facebook and Zynga recently prevailed in a similar lawsuit because the users in that case couldn't spell out any potential damages.

Of course, Koh might see things differently. But given the way things have been trending in trial courts, Low could have a hard sell convincing the judge that the case should proceed.

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