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LEGAL MATTERS: LinkedIn—Aggressive Marketing or Hacking?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

 

When does aggressive marketing become hacking? A federal court in California is wrestling with that issue right now in a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled former LinkedIn user. The plaintiff claims LinkedIn hacked into his computer, found every e-mail address in it, then bombarded the people with spam disguised as e-mail from him. LinkedIn says it was just helping him grow his professional network and prosper. (Why don’t companies just admit they do things to make a buck? There is nothing wrong with that and it would really help their credibility.)

The lawsuit is rooted in LinkedIn’s “optimization initiatives” designed to grow the site’s membership. One of the initiatives was aggressively pressing new members to invite their friends to also join LinkedIn. If the new user agreed, LinkedIn’s computers would troll the new member’s computer and identify all the new member’s contacts. LinkedIn’s computers would then send the contacts an e-mail inviting them to join. According to the lawsuit, the problems were:

  • The e-mail looked like it was from the new member – not LinkedIn’s marketing computers. That often kept it from getting flagged as spam as the recipients probably would have preferred.
  • If the recipients did not join LinkedIn right away, LinkedIn’s computers would send follow up e-mails further annoying the recipients and embarrassing the new member whose email account LinkedIn appeared to be using.
  • LinkedIn’s computers could send the e-mails to anyone in the new member’s Google contact list which included anyone the new member ever sent an e-mail to and everyone they received an e-mail from - not just people they had consciously added to their contact list. So a junior employee who signed up for LinkedIn could have unwittingly allowed LinkedIn to send a bunch of e-mails to his or her boss pitching them to buy a LinkedIn membership. (Not something that is likely to earn you points with the boss.)
  • LinkedIn did not make it easy for the hoodwinked new member to stop the e-mails once he or she realized what was going on.

LinkedIn has responded to the lawsuit by basically saying ‘what’s the big deal, they [the new members] checked the “allow” box.’ That may win them the lawsuit but it won’t win them much trust.

The New York Times wrote an excellent store about the lawsuit when it was filed in September and the Courthouse News Service has an updated article about LinkedIn’s effort to have it thrown out this month.

John Longo is a consumer rights attorney practicing law in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. He represents consumers who have disputes with businesses, employees cheated out of their wages or overtime, car buyers stuck with Lemons, and people in need of bankruptcy protection. He is a member of theNational Association of Consumer Advocates, theNational Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and the Rhode Island Association for Justice.

 

Related Slideshow: Highest Paid Teachers in Central MA

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State Total

Average Salary: $70,962

Salary Totals: $4,767,693,316

FTE Count: 67,187

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#20 Mendon-Upton

Average Salary: $69,336

Salary Totals: $10,518,274

FTE Count: 152

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#20 Uxbridge

Average Salary: $69,366

Salary Totals: $9,336,645

FTE Count: 135

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#18 Sturbridge

Average Salary: $69,580

Salary Totals: $4,703,624

FTE Count: 68

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#17 Nashoba

Average Salary: $70,316

Salary Totals: $17,171,217

FTE Count: 244

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#16 Leicester

Average Salary: $71,218

Salary Totals: $7,940,828

FTE Count: 112

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#15 Clinton

Average Salary: $71,564

Salary Totals: $8,881,051

FTE Count: 124

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#14 Shrewsbury

Average Salary: $71,957

Salary Totals: $27,199,684

FTE Count: 378

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#13 Boylston

Average Salary: $72,165

Salary Totals: $1,970,107

FTE Count: 27

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#12 Blackstone Valley

Average Salary: $72,563

Salary Totals: $6,501,608

FTE Count: 90

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#11 Millbury

Average Salary: $72,819

Salary Totals: $9,386,321

FTE Count: 129

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#10 Tantasqua

Average Salary: $74,006

Salary Totals: $10,368,310

FTE Count: 140

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#9 Fitchburg

Average Salary: $74,539

Salary Totals: $25,253,787

FTE Count: 339

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#8 Sutton

Average Salary: $76,242

Salary Totals: $7,265,901

FTE Count: 95

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#7 Westborough

Average Salary: $76,637

Salary Totals: $20,239,736

FTE Count: 264

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#6 Northborough

Average Salary: $77,592

Salary Totals: $10,800,782

FTE Count: 139

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#5 Berlin

Average Salary: $78,178

Salary Totals: $1,602,654

FTE Count: 21

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#4 Southborough

Average Salary: $79,771

Salary Totals: $8,647,168

FTE Count: 108

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#3 Northboro-Southboro

Average Salary: $83,573

Salary Totals: $8,549,517

FTE Count: 102

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#2 Harvard

Average Salary: $86,826

Salary Totals: $6,920,004

FTE Count: 80

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

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#1 Worcester

Average Salary: $89,065

Salary Totals: $141,069,458

FTE Count: 1,584

Note: FTE or full-time equivalent is a way to express the time of a full-time worker.

 
 

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