In a suit that will either cause LinkedIn Corp (NYSE:LNKD), the world's biggest and most used professional social media site, heaps of embarrassment or simply demonstrate the lack of tort reform in this country coupled with users of LinkedIn inability to find work emerged in reporting today.
The suit, Perkins v. LinkedIn Corp., 13-cv-04303, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, brought by LinkedIn Corp (NYSE:LNKD) users alleges that the company appropriated their identities for marketing the site without their consent by hacking into their external e-mail accounts and downloading contacts’ addresses.
The group asked a federal judge to stop LinkedIn from continuing this practice, and not surprisingly, is looking to be compensated for any revenue the company gained by using their identities to market the site to non-members according to the filing from September 17.
Not surprising, is the company's claims that the suit is without merit and its insistence that is did nothing wrong.
“LinkedIn is committed to putting our members first, which includes being transparent about how we protect and utilize our members’ data,” said Doug Madey, a spokesman for LinkedIn.
The suit suggests that LinkedIn Corp (NYSE:LNKD)'s use of external email addresses as a user name on the site made the "hack" possible.
“LinkedIn pretends to be that user and downloads the e-mail addresses contained anywhere in that account to LinkedIn’s servers,” claimed the suit. “LinkedIn is able to download these addresses without requesting the password for the external e-mail accounts or obtaining users’ consent.”
The suit also included the profile of LinkedIn Corp (NYSE:LNKD) software engineer Brian Guan who described his role on the company’s website as “devising hack schemes to make lots of $$$ with Java, Groovy and cunning at Team Money!” Groovy is a tech-term for Java.
The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial to resolve the matter.
LinkedIn presently has over 238 million members including execs from each of the companies listed in the Fortune 500 list.
Chief Executive Officer Jeff Weiner is quoted in the complaint saying on a second quarter earnings call, “This strong membership growth is due in large part to new growth optimization efforts.”
“These ‘endorsement e-mails’ are sent to e-mail addresses taken from LinkedIn users’ external e-mail accounts including the addresses of spouses, clients, opposing counsel, etc.,” according to the complaint.
The actions were taken even though LinkedIn assures its users when they log in, “We will not e-mail anyone without your permission,” the plaintiffs said.
“LinkedIn’s appropriation of e-mail addresses to send multiple reminder e-mails promoting its service is motivated by monetary gain,” they said.