Lawyers representing plaintiffs affected by spammy marketing practices by business networking website LinkedIn have reached a $13 settlement in a California court, with the LinkedIn email spam lawsuit likely to result in users of the website receiving a payout of around $10 per person.
Lawyers argued that the marketing practices used to attract new users breached California’s common law right of publicity and constituted unfair competition, with millions of users having had their privacy violated. The class-action lawsuit was filed in September 2013 and lasted two years before LinkedIn agreed to settle the case without admission of liability. LinkedIn claimed no wrongdoing and that its business practices broke no laws.
Alleged Spammy Marketing Practices used by LinkedIn to Attract New Users
Users of LinkedIn are permitted to import contacts from email accounts such as Gmail. Users electing to “Add Connections”, will generate an email that is sent to their contacts list inviting those individuals to connect and sign up for an account with the website.
Site users were asked before emails were sent to their imported email contacts, but they were not advised about a further two emails that were triggered if their contacts did not respond to the original email request within a fixed period of time. The follow-up emails were reminders that the invitation was still waiting for approval.
The lawyers claimed that LinkedIn had been “breaking into its users’ third-party email accounts, downloading email addresses that appear in the account, and then sending out multiple reminder emails.” The case centered on the fact that users were not advised that this would be the case. It was claimed that the website was using the names and likeness of users to drum up more business without consent, thus breaching the privacy rights of site members.
Last year, LinkedIn petitioned U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh requesting the case be dismissed, as users had in fact given their consent for contacts to be sent emails; however, Koh ruled that while consent had been provided for one email to be sent, users had not given LinkedIn consent to send any further emails if individuals did not respond to the initial request to join the website.
Other claims made against LinkedIn were rejected, such as the breach of federal wiretap law and claims of hacking users accounts. As a result, the case was required to be resubmitted.
LinkedIn Users Invited to Submit Claims for Compensation
The LinkedIn email spam lawsuit has now been settled, although users of the site are unlikely to receive much in the way of compensation. Any user who used the Add Connections feature of the website between September 17, 2011 and October 31, 2014 have now been invited to submit claims, and have until December 14, 2015 in order to do so.
Due to the volume of individuals affected, it is probable that the payout for each affected user will be around $10. LinkedIn has agreed to add further funds – $750,000 – if the volume of claims it receives results in individuals qualifying for a payout of less than $10 a head. Linked in will also be required to cover legal fees in addition to paying the $13 million settlement.
From the end of the year, all users of the “Add Connections” feature will be informed that by doing so, they are giving their consent for their imported email contacts will be sent one email, and up to two follow-up emails if no response is received from the initial request. There will also be a new option added which will allow invitations and reminder emails to be stopped.