LinkedIn Settles Battle Over Email Invites

LinkedIn has agreed to resolve a class-action lawsuit accusing it of misappropriating users' names by sending email invitations to their friends, the company said in court papers filed on Wednesday.

“The parties are pleased to inform the court that they have now reached an agreement in principle and are preparing a motion for preliminary approval,” LinkedIn and the users said in a joint status report submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California.

They add that they intend to file papers seeking preliminary approval of the settlement on May 20. Details of the deal likely will be revealed at that time.

If accepted by Koh, the deal will resolve a battle dating to September of 2013, when a group of LinkedIn users accused the company of violating the federal wiretap law by “hacking” into their email accounts, in order to harvest their friends' addresses.

The users -- including a former manager of international advertising sales for The New York Times -- also alleged that LinkedIn misappropriated their names and identities by sending a series of three email invitations to their friends. While the users acknowledged that the company asked them for permission to grow their networks, they argued that the service made only “cryptic disclosures” before harvesting email addresses and sending invitations.

Last year, Koh narrowed the case by rejecting the hacking claim on the grounds that the users agreed to transmit an initial email invitation to their friends. But she allowed the users to proceed with claims regarding the two follow-up emails.

LinkedIn subsequently argued that it had a free-speech right to send those follow-up emails, on the theory that the service helps people to communicate with each other.

Koh rejected that argument last November, after which LinkedIn and lawyers for the consumers met with a mediator.

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