LinkedIn Sued for Allegedly Hacking Users’ Address Books

Lawsuit alleges that the professional social network raids users’ address books to promote its services

A group of LinkedIn users have sued the social media networking platform for taking their information without consent and using it to send emails to their contacts urging them to sign up for the service.

If you know someone with a LinkedIn account, you’re probably very familiar with the emails urging you to sign up for the service and connect with your friends or colleagues. Those emails appear to be at the heart of the proposed class action lawsuit filed Sept. 17.

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In the suit, four LinkedIn users claimed that the platform, which boasts well over 200 million users, violated several privacy and communications laws in using their information to promote the service without their consent, with no way to stop the non-endorsed endorsements from happening.

More alarmingly, the suit also accused LinkedIn of “breaking into its users’ third party email accounts, downloading multiple email addresses that appear in the account, and then sending out multiple reminder emails ostensibly on behalf of the user advertising LinkedIn to non-members.”

The platform not only combed through their address books, the plaintiffs said, but it also harvested any and all email addresses which which those plaintiffs had any correspondence, sending all of them multiple emails with the plaintiffs’ names and photos asking them to join the service. “LinkedIn routinely takes over 1,000 email addresses from a user’s email account,” the suit said.

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The lawsuit tried to bolster its case by including several quotes from LinkedIn users on various LinkedIn forums, desperately trying to find out how to stop their email contacts from being flooded with invitations with their names on them.

LinkedIn called the accusations false in a blog post, saying that any charge that it breaks into third-party email accounts is not true and that any emails sent on the users’ behalf were done by the users’ choice.

“We do give you the choice to share your email contacts, so you can connect on LinkedIn with other professionals that you know and trust,” LinkedIn’s senior director of litigation Blake Lawit wrote. “We will continue to do everything we can to make our communications about how to do this as clear as possible.”

 Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.