LinkedIn User Drops Lawsuit Challenging Email Promotions

A Pennsylvania resident has dropped a lawsuit alleging that LinkedIn wrongly used his name and photo in email campaigns promoting the Add Connections feature.

Branton Lea, who sued the social networking site earlier this year, didn't say in court papers dated Saturday why he was withdrawing the case. U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, Calif. dismissed the case on Monday.

Lea's original complaint alleged that LinkedIn promoted “Add Connections” by informing his contacts via email that he used the feature. Lea contended that sending those messages violated a California law that prohibits companies from using people's identities for commercial purposes without their consent.



LinkedIn argued in April that the lawsuit should be dismissed on the grounds that Lea consented to the use of his name and image by accepting the terms of service. The company also said that its privacy policy provides that LinkedIn may use people's “information and content for invitations and communications promoting our service that are tailored to the recipient.”

The social networking service also argued that Lea's lawsuit appeared similar to an earlier case challenging Facebook's promotions of its “FriendFinder” service. The complaint in that case -- brought by Robyn Cohen and other Facebook users -- centered on allegations that Facebook's FriendFinder tool violated a California law that bans companies from using names or photos in ads without people's consent.

FriendFinder searched people's email contacts to determine which ones were on Facebook and then suggested them as friends. Cohen and the other users alleged that Facebook wrongly promoted FriendFinder by displaying members' names and photos in ads to their friends.

Facebook prevailed in that matter in 2011, when U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg ruled that Cohen and the other users had not shown they were injured by FriendFinder. Absent some tangible harm, the users did not have "standing" to proceed in federal court, Seeborg ruled.

Two years ago, a group of users filed a separate lawsuit alleging that LinkedIn wrongly scrapes users' address books and then sends a series of email invitations to their friends. The company recently agreed to pay $13 million to settle that matter.

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