Court Lifts Injunction Against LinkedIn, Allowing it to Block Scraping of Publicly Available Information

The U.S. federal district court for the Northern District of California has granted LinkedIn's motion to vacate the injunction that prohibited it from blocking hiQ Labs, a California startup, that has been running automated tools to collect publicly posted information of LinkedIn members.

The court was persuaded by LinkedIn's assertion of a significant change in circumstances because hiQ no longer operates as a business. According to the decision, "hiQ no longer offers the competing products that formed the basis of its claims under the Unfair Competition Law; it has no agreements to be violated with its customers; its employees are gone; its business activities are dormant for the foreseeable future."

The court found that this significant change in circumstances justified lifting the injunction, because "hiQ has failed to prove that it will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a permanent injunction. The harm it sought to prevent has already occurred ... hiQ has not been able to obtain a single customer since it ceased to operate in business in 2018."

The dispute between the California startup and the social network giant began years ago when hiQ received a cease-and-desist letter from LinkedIn requiring it to stop harvesting information using automatic tools (crawlers and scrapers). LinkedIn had claimed that the collection of information in this manner violates its terms of use, the US federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the privacy of its users. hiQ then resorted to judicial remedies and in 2017 successfully secured an injunction that allowed it to continue its data scraping activities.

Over the years, the injunction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and on rehearing ordered by the Supreme Court of the United States.

In this latest decision to lift the injunction, the court clarified that the decision does not prevent hiQ from requesting a new injunction in the future if new business opportunities arise that would require access to publicly posted LinkedIn profiles.

Click here to read the decision in hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corporation.