Supreme Court Sends Web Scraping Case Back to Lower Court
June 14, 2021
The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision in LinkedIn v. hiQ Labs but will not decide the merits of the case, instead sending the case back to the Ninth Circuit for a new decision in light of Van Buren v. United States. EPIC had filed an amicus brief in support of the Petition for Certiorari. The LinkedIn v. hiQ petition asked whether hiQ lacked authorization to access LinkedIn’s servers under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after LinkedIn used a combination of technical and verbal methods to cut off hiQ’s access to the website to stop the company from scraping user data. hiQ sued LinkedIn to regain access to the website, arguing that its business model depended on access to LinkedIn user data. A district court granted hiQ’s request for an injunction, which LinkedIn appealed. EPIC filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit arguing that the injunction was “contrary to the interests of individual LinkedIn users” and contrary to the public interest “because it undermines the principles of modern privacy and data protection law.” The Ninth Circuit upheld the injunction, finding that hiQ’s economic interests outweighed the interests in protecting users’ personal information. In its amicus brief in support of LinkedIn’s petition for cert, EPIC explained that the Ninth Circuit’s decision “makes it impossible” for companies to protect personal data and sets “a dangerous precedent that could threaten the privacy of user data.” The EPIC amicus brief highlighted the business practices of Clearview AI, a company that scraped billions of photographs to create a secretive facial recognition system. The case will most likely be sent back to the district court for a new decision that accords with Van Buren v. United States.