For those following web scraping caselaw, the hiQ Labs v. LinkedIn Corporation case has been one to watch. While prior decisions largely involved a preliminary injunction, the federal district court in California has now ruled on LinkedIn’s remaining claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and breach of contract. On November 4, 2022, the court decided that some of these claims should proceed to trial because there remained genuine disputes of material fact, and denied the bulk of both hiQ’s and LinkedIn’s motions for summary judgment.
However, the court did find hiQ liable for breach of contract in connection with its hiring of “turkers,” temporary, crowdsourced workers, who made fake LinkedIn profiles to manually view and verify the identities of LinkedIn profiles.
Breach of Contract Claims
LinkedIn alleged a breach of contract on two issues: (1) hiQ’s automated web scraping of LinkedIn profiles, and (2) hiQ’s use of turkers to log into LinkedIn with fake profiles to conduct quality assurance for hiQ.
First, the court held that hiQ was subject to LinkedIn’s User Agreement, which expressly prohibits web scraping without LinkedIn’s permission and the creation of fake profiles. But while it concluded that hiQ breached LinkedIn’s User Agreement by scraping the platform and using the scraped data, the court nonetheless denied summary judgment to LinkedIn so that a jury may consider hiQ’s affirmative defenses—whether LinkedIn waived the claim, whether hiQ relied on LinkedIn’s acquiescence over the years in developing its business, and whether LinkedIn employees’ knowledge of hiQ’s activities may be imputed to the company.
Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) Claim
The Ninth Circuit recently affirmed the preliminary injunction precluding LinkedIn from blocking hiQ’s access to public profiles following the Supreme Court’s remand in light of Van Buren v. United States.
Back at the district court, hiQ argued that LinkedIn’s CFAA claim was precluded by the two-year statute of limitations. Based on two email chains where LinkedIn employees discussed hiQ’s scraping activity, hiQ asserted that LinkedIn had reasonable notice of hiQ’s scraping activity in 2014 but failed to file its complaint until June 2017. The district court declined to grant summary judgment on this basis, identifying several factual disputes concerning the employees’ scope of employment and whether their knowledge could be imputed to LinkedIn.
Implications of Decision