I spied a ruling in today’s US print edition of the Wall Street Journal. It was titled, ‘LinkedIn Suffers Defeat in Data Case‘. The case concerns LinkedIn’s attempt at stopping a start-up from scraping public data from the LinkedIn site. The data is publicly posted data by LinkedIn members.
It seems that a temporary reprieve has been given to the defendant, hiQ Labs, and LinkedIn has to allow such data scraping. More litigation is required, so says the court, to determine if this reprieve should be made permanent.
The implications are interesting but before we get carried away, we need to understand what data is covered by this ruling. This does not seem to include the underlying member data, but data posted by those members in a public for manner. A question I have is if membership is required to access this data, or does a user (or scraper) need to be behind the sign-on ‘log-in wall’ in order to access it?
It even assuming we can ignore the answers to this question, the implications for this case are still far reaching. The article suggests that ‘owners’ of public data cannot limit access of this data, period. And more interestingly such public data can be scrapped; that is, copied and stored elsewhere for use by others. This takes me back twenty years when screen scraping was the new thing. Now it seems it is a dirty fact that could undermine the value we put on (public) data. And this opens up the possibility that the largest data asset you didn’t know you had is out there, right in front of you!
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