LinkedIn is going on the offensive against "scrapers" who use bots to access the site in order to collect data about its users.
The scrapers' actions "violated the trust that LinkedIn members place in the company to protect their information," the company writes in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The company adds that the defendants also "polluted the LinkedIn environment" by creating fake profiles.
The defendants "circumvented several technical barriers employed by LinkedIn that prevent mass automated scraping, and have knowingly and intentionally violated various access and use restrictions in LinkedIn’s User Agreement, which they agreed to abide by in registering LinkedIn member accounts," the company alleges.
LinkedIn says in its complaint that it expects to discover the identity of the scrapers by sending subpoenas to various Internet service providers. The social networking service is seeking monetary damages and an injunction prohibiting the defendants from accessing its site.
The company claims that whoever created the fake profiles and scooped up data violated a host of laws, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- a federal anti-hacking law. But the interpretation of that law is very much in flux, with judges around the country still figuring out how it applies when people access Web sites against the wishes of the operators. A group of researchers recently asked a federal judge to declare portions of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act unconstitutional, arguing that they have the right to access sites in order to conduct tests, regardless of the sites' terms of service. That matter is pending before U.S. District Court Judge John Bates in the District of Columbia.
LinkedIn has previously found itself on the other side of lawsuits regarding the use of data. The company recently agreed to pay $13 million to resolve a class-action lawsuit accusing it of misappropriating users' names by sending email invitations to their friends. The company also paid $1.25 million in order to settle a class-action lawsuit stemming from a 2012 data breach.