LinkedIn Sued for Disclosing User IDs to Advertisers

Thursday, March 31, 2011



A lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by LinkedIn member Kevin Low alleging that the business-oriented social network is violating user privacy.

The complaint maintains that LinkedIn is in violation of state and federal anti-wiretapping laws, as well as the social networks own privacy policies which state that member names will not be provided to advertisers without prior consent.

The crux of the lawsuit is centered around personally identifiable information provided to third party advertisers and has implications for behavioral advertising data collection techniques, a subject of great interest to privacy proponents and is garnering more attention from lawmakers.

Specifically, referrer headers sent to the third parties contain a unique identifier that is associated with a cookie issued by LinkedIn. The suit maintains that this practice reveals sensitive information regarding the referring member's browsing habits and history.

"Had he been given the choice, Mr. Low would not have disclosed his personally identifiable browsing history to third parties. Mr. Low was embarrassed and humiliated by the disclosure of his personally identifiable browsing history," the complaint states.

Low is seeking class-action status for the case, which would allow other LinkedIn members to similarly seek damages for violation of privacy.

"Anyone who has used the Internet to discreetly seek advice about hemorrhoids, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation, mental health, dementia, etc., can be reasonably certain that these sensitive inquiries have been captured in the browsing history and incorporated into a personalized profile which will be packaged for sale to marketers," the lawsuit contends.


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