A US federal judge said LinkedIn must face a lawsuit by customers who claim it violated their privacy by accessing their external e-mail accounts, downloading their contacts' e-mail addresses and soliciting business from those contacts.
US District Judge Lucy Koh, sitting in San Jose, California, found that while customers consented to LinkedIn's sending an initial "endorsement e-mail" to recruit contacts, they did not agree to let the professional networking website send two reminder e-mails when the initial e-mail was ignored.
This practice "could injure users' reputations by allowing contacts to think that the users are the types of people who spam their contacts or are unable to take the hint that their contacts do not want to join their LinkedIn network", Koh wrote in a 39-page decision. "In fact, by stating a mere three screens before the disclosure regarding the first invitation that 'We will not … e-mail anyone without your permission', LinkedIn may have actively led users astray."
Koh said customers may pursue claims that LinkedIn violated their right of publicity, which protects them from unauthorised use of their names and likenesses for commercial purposes, and violated a California unfair- competition law.