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Class Action Privacy Lawsuit Filed Against Social Media Giant LinkedIn

imgres-1LinkedIn, the popular social media giant that boasts over 300 million users worldwide, has recently been sued in a class action lawsuit over privacy violation claims.

The plaintiffs, who each have their own individual stories, claim that LinkedIn destroyed their chances at employment while violating their privacy.

The complaint was filed against LinkedIn by four individual plaintiffs over its premium “reference report,” which contains the names, locations, employment areas, current employers, and current positions of all persons in the user’s network who may have worked with the applicant.

This class action of plaintiffs claim that LinkedIn not only sold employment information that may or may not be accurate, but also obtained said information in part from unwitting members.

Fair Credit Reporting Act

The plaintiffs, Tracee Sweet, Lisa Jaramillo, James Ralston, and Tiffany Thomas, claim that they have been harmed by LinkedIn's alleged violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and are seeking both damages and injunctive relief.

The complaint alleges that members are not notified when potential employers run a report on them, meaning “any potential employer can anonymously dig into the employment history of any LinkedIn member.” This practice, according to the complaint, leads to “hiring and firing decisions based on the information gather[ed], without the knowledge of the member, and without any safeguards in place as to the accuracy of the information that the potential employer has obtained."

The purpose of the Fair Credit Reporting Act is to promote accuracy, fairness, and the privacy of personal information assembled by credit reporting agencies. The complaint adds, “Such secrecy in dealing in consumer information directly contradicts the express purposes,” for which the Fair Credit Reporting Act was originally legislated and enacted.

Allegedly, LinkedIn has actually been promoting its service specifically to employers, with statements such as “find references who can give real, honest feedback” and “get the real story on any [job] candidate.”

Inaccurate information

The plaintiffs together allege LinkedIn has created a marketplace in which it “sells employment information that may or may not be accurate . . . without complying with the FCRA.” Each have had their own adverse individual experiences with employment opportunities that they feel are directly tied to the involvement of LinkedIn.

Plaintiffs Sweet, Jaramillo, Thomas, and Ralston, feel they were wrongly denied employment opportunities due to the reporting practices of LinkedIn. However, LinkedIn spokesman Richard George has said, “[LinkedIn] take[s] member privacy very seriously. We believe that the legal claims in the recently-filed lawsuit are without merit, and we intend to fight them vigorously.”

  • Tracee Sweet of Georgia was recently offered a job following a job interview. However, the job offer was later revoked after Sweet's references had been checked and the company changed their mind based on those references. The kicker? Sweet did not provide any references herself, but her LinkedIn profile was accessed by the company with whom she interviewed.
  • Lisa Jaramillo of Florida was contacted by an in-house recruiter about a job. The company originally seemed very interested in Jaramillo, but did not continue to pursue her after she connected with another person on the company's team via LinkedIn.
  • Tiffany Thomas of Florida, noticed a manager from a potential job had viewed her LinkedIn profile and applied for a job with the company. She completed an interview, but has not received word back regarding whether the company will offer her employment since her LinkedIn profile has been viewed.
  • James Ralston of California was approached by a job recruiter and asked to fill out an online form. However, Ralston was later told that both potential employers had declined to interview him.

Richard George, LinkedIn's spokesman, has stated that, “A reference search, which is only available to premium account holders, simply lets a searcher locate people in their network who have worked at the same company during the same time period as a member they would like to learn more about. A reference search does not reveal any of that member's non-public information.”

The case is Tracee Sweet, Lisa Jaramillo, James Ralston, and Tiffany Thomas v. LinkedIn Corporation, Case5:14-cv-04531-PSG, Northern US District Court of California.


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