Four LinkedIn users have filed a lawsuit accusing the business-oriented social network of accessing their email accounts without permission, harvesting the addresses of their contacts and spamming those people with repeated invitations to join the service.
In their most explosive claim, the plaintiffs say that LinkedIn is “breaking into” external email accounts, like Gmail or Yahoo Mail, by pretending to be the account owner, although the legal complaint offers no details about that assertion. Larry Russ, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, declined to comment beyond the suit.
The lawsuit, which is seeking damages on behalf of all LinkedIn users, revives a long-standing issue about the service: Does LinkedIn adequately inform its users about how it uses sensitive information, including email addresses of everyone they know, and get their consent to do so?
As the lawsuit puts it: “As a part of its effort to acquire new users, Linkedln sends multiple e-mails endorsing its products, services and brand to potential new users. In an effort to optimize the efficiency of this marketing strategy, Linkedln sends these “endorsement e-mails” to the list of e-mail addresses obtained without its existing users’ express consent and, to further enhance the effectiveness of this particular marketing campaign, these endorsement e-mails contain the name and likeness of those existing users from whom Linkedln surreptitiously obtained the list of email addresses.”
In 2018 there is still an ongoing battle between privacy and the desire of companies to monitize content and us sell things. The second team has pretty much won, however, at this point.