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A group of customers filed a suit against professional-networking site, LinkedIn, after the company allegedly appropriated users’ identities for marketing purposes. External e-mail accounts were allegedly hacked in order to download the contacts’ e-mail addresses. The group turned to a San Jose, California federal judge to bar the networking site from repeating the alleged violations and to force it to return any and all revenue stemming from its use of identities without permission to promote the site to non-members.
When using LinkedIn, members must create an external account as a username in the sign-up process. That way LinkedIn can look through a person’s contacts for people to make connections with. According to the customers though, LinkedIn took it a step too far when it pretended to be the user and sent e-mails to people who were not even members of LinkedIn yet.
Doug Madey, spokesperson for Mountain View, the California-based LinkedIn, said the case lacked any merit.
”LinkedIn is committed to putting its members first, which includes being transparent about how we protect and utilize our members’ data.”
One customer named Deborah Lagutaris, however, said LinkedIn used her profile to send e-mails to more than 3,000 people in her name. E-mail blasts like this one, the group says, come from LinkedIn’s strategy to “pursue initiativesthat promote the viral growth of our member base.”
The group also cited LinkedIn software engineer Brian Guan describing his position as, “devising hack schemes to make lots of $$$ with Java, Groovy and cunning at Team Money.” Guan left the company in May of 2012, according to Shannon Stubo, a LinkedIn spokesperson.
On Sept. 21, Blake Lawit, LinkedIn’s senior director of litigation, also said the allegations were not true in a post on the LinkedIn blog. According to Lawit the company does not access e-mail accounts without permission, nor does it “pretend to be a customer.”
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