Web Scraper To Pay LinkedIn $500,000, Destroy Data About Users

Analytics company hiQ Labs has settled a high-profile battle with LinkedIn by agreeing to pay $500,000 and to refrain from scraping LinkedIn's data and destroy data previously collected about the service's users.

The settlement, which was approved Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen in the Northern District of California, resolves a lengthy fight between the two companies over access to information about consumers.

The dispute began in 2017, when when LinkedIn demanded that hiQ stop using automated tools to gather data about users, and instituted technical blocks that aimed to prevent access by hiQ.

LinkedIn said the scraping violated its terms of service as well as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- an anti-hacking law that prohibits anyone from accessing computer servers without authorization.

But hiQ argued that the data it collected was public, and that it needed the information for a business service that involved analyzing LinkedIn users' posts to determine which employees were at risk of being poached, and then selling the findings to employers.

The two companies took their dispute to court, resulting in an initial victory for hiQ in August of 2017, when U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen in the Northern District of California ruled that analytics company didn't appear to have violated the anti-hacking law. At the time, Chen issued an injunction requiring LinkedIn to allow hiQ to access data about users.

That ruling was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Chen lifted that injunction in August, after it emerged that hiQ was no longer in business.

Last month, Chen ruled that hiQ violated LinkedIn's terms of service, which prohibited scraping, but also said LinkedIn may have waived its legal claim by waiting too long to take action.

“There is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether LinkedIn knew about hiQ’s scraping and use of scraped data as early as October 2014,” Chen wrote.

That ruling teed up the dispute for a jury trial, but the companies notified Chen on Tuesday that they had reached an agreement.

Other settlement terms include a promise by hiQ to avoid using LinkedIn's platform to develop a commercial service without LinkedIn's written consent, and to refrain from selling any analysis of the previously collected data.

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