A class action lawsuit is underway in the Northern District of California federal court. Subscribers of the popular professional social media outlet LinkedIn are accusing the company of hacking into their address books via email (the full complaint is linked at the bottom of the article). The lawsuit claims LinkedIn would break into email addresses of users, download the address books and then send emails to those users advertising to sign up. LinkedIn would not only solicit the users but send emails endorsing products, services and companies.
The attorney for the plaintiffs, Larry Russ, has declined comment to this article. LinkedIn in previous times stated they would expressively receive permission from users before sending out advertisements. The sign-up process may become mundane for some people accessing the site for the first time. Click, click, signed up. Little did they realize they just clicked an authorization for LinkedIn to contact every person listed on their email address book.
The suit alleges LinkedIn manipulated users by having them connect the email accounts upon sign-up. The service acknowledges current connections with LinkedIn but also captures email addresses not associated with LinkedIn. A user can unwittingly proceed, thus resulting in mass advertisements being sent to business connections, unintended.
Users currently on the not so much professional social site chatted about the access forced by LinkedIn. One user accused LinkedIn of “blackhat tactics” and urged others to share to “skip this step” when signing up and do not accidentially click “invite all.” Many other users chimed in agreeing with the statement and disappointed in the platform millions have come to trust for private business connections.
In addition to the lawsuit, users are demanding the federal court to restrict LinkedIn from making anymore of these connections and financial damages are up for consideration. Users want a return of revenue that may stem from the use of their identities for products and services.
LinkedIn’s spokesman, Doug Madey stated the company will fight, as the claims and suit are flimsy. While LinkedIn stated they do not “pretend” to be a subscriber to access the address book, they will access the account with a level of permission. This slight admission only attributes to further user strife, making tens of thousands reconsider their commitment to the once respected brand.
LinkedIn has become a powerhouse social platform based on its users and their referrals, but millions are pondering now how those referrals came to fruition. It is also not so wise to have the Principal Software Engineer, Brian Guan bragging about his questionable skills on his profile:
The lawsuit is not a pleasant one and will require a practice review industry-wide. The suit breaks down that it is LinkedIn who charges subscribers $10 per email to send a message to someone they are not linked with. Based on this financial review, the plaintiffs want a payment review of every email LinkedIn has submitted by using user identities and contacts.
Users started receiving notifications and contacts from colleagues who did not appreciate the advertisements. Many individuals lost important business contacts due to the unfair practices LinkedIn seemingly took advantage of. The suit claims no where during the sign-up process does it advise the signing member their contacts will be emailed multiple times with endorsements from the user.
The anger is swift and disappointment is running deep when it comes to the email hacking accusation against LinkedIn. Speaking to a few users, they spoke of feeling “betrayed” and “used” by a site they came to trust for professional connections. It will take time for LinkedIn to gain the trust of its users once more. This is not the first suit for LinkedIn, but it is a first that can demoralize the base of the social media giant.