Reply to post: Not a CFAA issue

US Supreme Court gives LinkedIn another shot at stymieing web scraping

Graham Cobb Silver badge

Not a CFAA issue

There are two different issues here:

1) Whether it is a criminal act to access information a website deliberately posts without effective access controls but with some policies.

2) Whether it is a privacy violation to scrape personal information (PII) without the permission of the person concerned.

It is important that these two are clearly distinguished. To me it is clear that 1 is NOT illegal - and that for the effective operation of the web it needs to remain not illegal. If accessing unprotected data on the web is illegal without permission the whole World Wide Web concept falls apart. if you don't want people to access information on your website then employ effective access control mechanisms to disallow it. It is not reasonable that you can criminalize based on how much information is accessed, by whom, or for what purpose. If LinkedIn want the commercial benefits which accrue from some people being able to freely access data then they have to live with the commercial disadvantages that allow everyone else, including competitors, to have access.

The second question is more complex. It is certainly clear that accessing and storing personal information without permission from the person concerned is illegal in reasonable countries. However, it is not clear who is most in the wrong here: LinkedIn for publishing that information without access controls or the scraper. The answer to that is complex and will depend on issues like whether LinkedIn had made it clear to users that their information would be published like that and received permission. It is clear that the scraper is liable under reasonable privacy laws for processing PII without permission. However LinkedIn would even more liable for publishing the information if they did so without explicit and informed permission.

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