Bulletins

SCOTUS kicks LinkedIn scraping case back to lower court

The U.S. Supreme Court

LinkedIn argued hiQ was violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Photo: Angel Xavier Viera-Vargas

The Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling Monday in a case in which LinkedIn sought to stop a company called hiQ Labs from scraping public profile data.


LinkedIn argued hiQ was violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the country's core anti-hacking statute. But the Ninth Circuit court of appeals sided with hiQ. Now, the justices are asking the court of appeals to reconsider the case in light of the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Van Buren vs. United States.

Van Buren also dealt with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, though it didn't directly address data scraping. In a 6-3 opinion earlier this month, the justices found that police officer Nathan Van Buren had not violated the CFAA when he accepted money to access a law enforcement database that he already had permission to use.

The justices found that such behavior didn't constitute "exceeding authorized access," as defined by the law, a decision that was viewed as significantly narrowing the scope of CFAA. But it wasn't clear exactly what Van Buren would mean for data scraping. Now, the justices are asking the lower court to reconsider the LinkedIn v. hiQ case with this decision in mind.

The LinkedIn case could have a direct and immediate impact on the ways tech platforms enforce their terms of service under the law, including when it comes to data scraping, which researchers and journalists alike have said is crucial to understanding how tech companies work.

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