According to their class action complaint filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, plaintiffs Tracee Sweet, Lisa Jaramillo, James Ralston and Tiffany Thomas allege that LinkedIn provided access to information about them including identities of their former employers which undermined their job prospects with prospective employers who had connected with them and thus violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., (“FCRA”).
The complaint alleged that the prospective employer had used the Reference Searches function on LinkedIn, which requires a subscription fee and which allows employers to find people with whom an applicant may have worked in the past. According to plaintiffs, this search engine allows employers to “[g]et the real story on any candidate” and to “[f]ind references who can give real, honest feedback” about job candidates. The Reference Searches feature produces two types of information: (1) the name and list of the search target’s current and former employers; and (2) a list of other LinkedIn members who are in the same professional network of the search initiator and “who may have worked at the same company during the same time period as the search target.” The feature then produces results, which include for each possible reference, “the name of the employer in common between the reference and the job applicant, and the reference’s position and years employed at that common employer.” The candidate being searched is not notified of the inquiry or of the search results.
Also according to the allegations of the complaint: “Though LinkedIn aggregates a significant amount of consumer information, LinkedIn represents to its members that it does not license or sell member content to third-parties to show to anyone else without the express permission of the particular member.”
In response, LinkedIn sought to have the lawsuit thrown out because the LinkedIn is not bound by the FCRA because it is not a credit reporting agency, it does not issue consumer reports, nor does it fall into any exception provided by the law. The court agreed with LinkedIn and dismissed the complaint with leave to amend. The decision can be found here.