LinkedIn's business practices have been the subject of lawsuits before. This time, LinkedIn is accused of allowing paid subscribers to "anonymously dig into the employment history" of its members, violating federal consumer protection laws.
According to the suit, LinkedIn can mine the information provided by users of its professional networking website to find potential references for job applicants without the applicants' knowledge. Searches yield a list of the names and current job titles for potential references, along with the common employer they share with the applicant and time worked together.
The complaint claims that these reference lists amount to a consumer report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and that LinkedIn fails to abide by safeguards required under the law.
"In essence, LinkedIn has created a marketplace in consumer employment information, where it sells employment information, that may or may not be accurate, and that it has obtained in part from unwitting members, and without complying with the FCRA," write the plaintiffs lawyers at Greenwald Davidson in Boca Raton, Fla., and the Law Offices Todd M. Friedman in Beverly Hills. Plaintiffs are asking for statutory damages for willful violation of the FCRA, which run from $100 to $1,000 per violation.
The suit claims that LinkedIn's reference report feature allows employers to "make hiring and firing decisions based upon the information they gather, without the knowledge of the member, and without any safeguards in place as to the accuracy of the information."
Lawyers further claim that the business network "directly contradicts" the FCRA, which they say "was enacted to promote accuracy, fairness, and the privacy of personal information."