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LinkedIn embroiled in business litigation class action

The Internet is spawning civil disputes of unlimited variety as the medium grows, evolves and transforms. Just recently in California four LinkedIn users sued the business networking company for allegedly hacking into their email addresses and trying to use each of their email contacts to recruit more members. The lawsuit is a class action business litigation claim against LinkedIn.

LinkedIn responded by first issuing a blog article stating that the claims against the company were untrue. It stated that it wanted to correct the false accusations and misleading headlines. Written by LinkedIn's senior director of litigation, the article stressed that the company does not access members' email accounts without their permission.

LinkedIn denied any hacking or breaking into members accounts. The company says that it never sends messages or invitations to join LinkedIn using a member's name unless with permission. With the clarity of those denials, it begs the question whether there was a mistake of perceptions between the parties or whether the company is now trying to cover up practices it may have secretly taken.

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Legal principles are developing for these types of situations, and it's not yet clear what rights a member may have. For example, if a new member gives his or her information to an online company, is it a civil wrong for that company to enter the account to look around and take copies of what it sees?

We would certainly hope that the answer to that question is yes. But's it's not yet entirely clear how such important privacy issues will be handled. It seems to be in the nature of a traditional improper confiscation of someone's proprietary property. But then again access is generally granted through cookies and the like under the new, evolving paradigm for online business activities.

In any event, in California and elsewhere there is an effective way to assure that such disputes don't become fodder for more business litigation. They can be anticipated and resolved in advance by having a written agreement. This can follow a traditional contractual format but defines the rights and duties of the parties in terms of Internet parlance, and provides a framework for the resolution of most potential problems.

Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal, LinkedIn rebuts lawsuit's email hacking claim, No author, Sept. 23, 2013

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