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LinkedIn fires back against 'hack-and-spam' US class-action sue bomb

Plaintiffs allege Facebook-for-suits violated federal wiretap law, California privacy rules

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LinkedIn senior director of litigation had to work over the weekend after a class action lawsuit was filed alleging the firm "hacks" into members email address-books before spamming out marketing emails.

The class action – filed in the US, in the Northern District Court of California (PDF, via Bloomberg) on behalf of four US-based LinkedIn users – seeks unspecified damages from the business-focused social network.

At the heart of the allegations is the accusation that LinkedIn "hacks" into users' email accounts before harvesting email addresses and sending spam, all without obtaining users' consent or requesting a password. The plaintiffs allege that the emails, purportedly designed to persuade recipients to sign up to LinkedIn, contain the Linkedln member's name and likeness so it looks as if the member is endorsing the social-network-for-suits.

The complaint acknowledges LinkedIn asks for permission to "grow" users' networks, but the plaintiffs claim the service never explained this involves sending a series of email invitations to their contacts. The lawsuit alleges violation of federal wiretap law as well as California privacy laws.

LinkedIn is contesting the lawsuit, which it argues is "without merit".

Blake Lawit, LinkedIn's senior bod of litigation, published a blog post on Saturday characterising the hacking and spamming allegations as both misconceived and wrong. Members "choose to upload their email address books to LinkedIn" and this has nothing to do with hacking, he wrote.

"Claims that we 'hack' or 'break into' members’ accounts are false," Lawit writes. "We never deceive you by 'pretending to be you' in order to access your email account.

"We never send messages or invitations to join LinkedIn on your behalf to anyone unless you have given us permission to do so," he adds.

Rather than hacking and spamming, as the class action lawsuit alleges, LinkedIn gives users the "choice to share your email contacts, so you can connect on LinkedIn with other professionals that you know and trust," nominative determinism's Lawit concludes, adding that the social network for suits takes care to ensure this process is as "clear as possible". ®

Perkins v LinkedIn Corp, 13-cv-04303, is currently under way in US District Court: Northern District of California

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