The LinkedIn Lawsuit Is a Step Forward But Doesn't Go Far Enough

Monday 22 September 2014 by Bradley M. Kuhn

Years ago, I wrote a blog post about how I don't use Google Plus, Google Hangouts, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn or other proprietary network services. I talked in that post about how I'm under constant and immense social pressure to use these services. (It's often worse than the peer pressure one experiences as a teenager.)

I discovered a few months ago, however, that one form of this peer pressure was actually a product of nefarious practices by one of the vendors — namely Linked In. Today, I learned a lawsuit is now proceeding against Linked In on behalf of the users whose contacts were spammed repeatedly by Linked In's clandestine use of people's address books.

For my part, I suppose I should be glad that I'm “well connected”, but that means I get multiple emails from Linked In almost every single day, and indeed, as the article (linked to above) states, each person's spam arrives three times over a period of weeks. I was initially furious at people whom I'd met for selling my contact information to Linked In (which of course, they did), but many of them indeed told me they were never informed by Linked In that such spam generation would occur once they'd complete the sale of all their contact data to Linked In.

This is just yet another example of proprietary software companies mistreating users. If we had a truly federated Linked-In-like service, we'd be able to configure our own settings in this regard. But, we don't have that. (I don't think anyone is even writing one.) This is precisely why it's important to boycott these proprietary solutions, so at the very least, we don't complacently forget that they're proprietary, or inadvertently mistreat our colleagues who don't use those services in the interim.

Finally, the lawsuit seems to focus solely on the harm caused to Linked In users who were embarrassed professionally. (I can say that indeed I was pretty angry at many of my contacts for a while when I thought they were choosing to spam me three times each, so that harm is surely real.) But the violation CAN-SPAM act by Linked In should also not be ignored and I hope someone will take action on that point, too.

Posted on Monday 22 September 2014 at 18:20 by Bradley M. Kuhn.

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Both previously and presently, I have been employed by and/or done work for various organizations that also have views on Free, Libre, and Open Source Software. As should be blatantly obvious, this is my website, not theirs, so please do not assume views and opinions here belong to any such organization. Since I do co-own ebb.org with my wife, it may not be so obvious that these aren't her views and opinions, either.

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Bradley M. Kuhn <bkuhn@ebb.org>