What the LinkedIn Lawsuit Means for the Search Industry

Last week, a judge in US fed­er­al court ruled in favor of a star­tup whose busi­ness cen­ters on scrap­ing pro­fes­sion­al net­work Linked­In for pub­lic data to inform its own clients about their employ­ees’ poten­tial career moves. Linked­In object­ed to the prac­tice, which...

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Last week, a judge in US fed­er­al court ruled in favor of a star­tup whose busi­ness cen­ters on scrap­ing pro­fes­sion­al net­work Linked­In for pub­lic data to inform its own clients about their employ­ees’ poten­tial career moves.

Linked­In object­ed to the prac­tice, which is how the par­ties found them­selves in a Cal­i­for­nia court­room.

And, at least ini­tial­ly, the star­tup seems to have pre­vailed. How­ev­er, it’s not over yet and, as it plays out, this is a case that could have huge impli­ca­tions for data and pri­va­cy in the mod­ern era – and per­haps even the search indus­try itself.

That’s because the case will ulti­mate­ly deter­mine how much con­trol Linked­In has over the pub­lic data it stores.

Chris Hart, head of US client devel­op­ment at Scrib­ble­Live, said there are a num­ber of addi­tion­al ques­tions, such as whether the star­tup has a right to build its busi­ness off of an unau­tho­rized data source and how much con­trol Linked­In has over choos­ing which bots are allowed access to its data and which are not, as well as who is respon­si­ble for the addi­tion­al cost Linked­In incurs as a result of increased bot traf­fic.

It is a very inter­est­ing case as bot use has done noth­ing but accel­er­ate over time and there is lit­tle to no end in sight for that accel­er­a­tion,” Hart added.

Mar­cus Mil­er, SEO and PPC strate­gist at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing firm Bowler Hat, agreed it’s an inter­est­ing case in part because Linked­In doesn’t want users scared of using its plat­form, but, at the same time, the infor­ma­tion being scraped is pub­lic, which makes it seem unlike­ly Linked­In could legal­ly put any mea­sures in place to pre­vent scrap­ing.

David Erick­son, vice pres­i­dent of online mar­ket­ing at Kar­woski & Courage Pub­lic Rela­tions, how­ev­er, said assum­ing the case fails upon appeal, both the gen­er­al pub­lic and the search indus­try in par­tic­u­lar will ben­e­fit.

That’s because crim­i­nal­iz­ing the prac­tice of site scrap­ing would have more neg­a­tive con­se­quences than the prob­lem the law­suit is try­ing to resolve.

A lot of new con­tent and many ser­vices are cre­at­ed through the mash-up of dis­parate con­tent and/or data,” Erick­son said. “That new con­tent then becomes addi­tion­al con­tent for search engi­nes to index, pro­vid­ing the world with addi­tion­al valu­able infor­ma­tion and knowl­edge and, [for] search engi­nes them­selves, more ad inven­to­ry.”

Miller agreed if there was ever a court deci­sion about scrap­ing con­tent, search engi­nes would have a big prob­lem.

The data that search engi­nes like Google use is almost entire­ly scraped data,” he said. “If Google was no longer able to scrape and store data, then they could not per­form their basic func­tion of cat­a­logu­ing the ocean of infor­ma­tion out there.”

That being said, Miller not­ed it’s unlike­ly such a judg­ment would ever be made as “it could be murky water if cer­tain groups of peo­ple were not allowed access to pub­lic infor­ma­tion.”

He added, “Linked­In, for exam­ple, wants to be scraped by Google to appear in search results. They do not want to be scraped by this com­pa­ny as they don’t want a third par­ty using infor­ma­tion from their plat­form. One rule for one. One rule for anoth­er.”

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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