LinkedIn users who are suing the company for “hacking” into their email actually gave the service their permission to access their email contacts and send them invitations, the company argues in papers filed with a federal judge.
The company is asking U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif. to dismiss the “groundless” lawsuit, which alleges that the company hacked into users' emails in order to invite their friends to join the service. LinkedIn makes the request in response to a case brought in September by four users who say the social-networking service wrongly accessed their email contacts and invited them to join the service.
LinkedIn argues in its court papers filed that people must click through through two different “permission screens” -- one of which says
“allow” and one of which says “add connections” -- before it imports information about their friends' email addresses.
“Any reasonably prudent Internet user who reviewed these screens would understand that, by clicking buttons labeled 'Allow' and 'Add Connections,' they were consenting to the challenged actions,” the company says in a recent motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The consumers who sued -- all Gmail users -- allege in their complaint that LinkedIn asked them to provide an email address when they signed up for the service, then proceeded to harvest the email addresses of everyone they had ever exchanged messages with. The users say that LinkedIn never asked them for their passwords, but was nonetheless able to retrieve addresses of thousands of their contacts.
While they acknowledge in their complaint that LinkedIn requested permission to “grow” their networks, they also say that the service never said it would send a series of email invitations to their contacts. “Linkedln's accessing of email addresses far exceeds the authority and consent to which Linkedln users provide,” the Web users allege. “Linkedln does not inform its users that each email address appropriated from a user's external email account will be sent multiple emails inviting the recipient to join Linkedln with the user's endorsement.”
LinkedIn acknowledges in its papers that users who are signed in to Gmail don't have to provide their passwords for LinkedIn to access their email contacts. But the company says that those signed-in users are “presented with a second permission screen from Google,” which tells them that LinkedIn is requesting information from their accounts.
“While some members may conceivably have clicked on buttons labeled 'Allow' and 'Add Connections' without paying attention to the accompanying permission screens, that does not mean that they did not objectively consent, much like someone who inadvertently clicks on 'Reply to All' in Outlook and sends an email to a broader audience than intended,” the company argues.