In January, LinkedIn filed a lawsuit that accused unnamed “John Does” of creating fake profiles in order to “connect” with real LinkedIn users and siphon their professional profiles. Now, the company has identified who is controlling the bots and, unsurprisingly, it turns out to be a would-be competitor.
In an amended complaint filed last week in San Francisco, LinkedIn named a start-up called HiringSolved as well as its founder Shon Burton, who was recently profiled in the career advice section of Business Insider.
LinkedIn said it identified Burton by collecting the IP addresses associated with the bots tied to the fake profiles. LinkedIn then traced those IP addresses to a “well-known cloud computing platform,” whose billing records tied them to Burton’s residence in San Francisco.
LinkedIn is now seeking damages and an injunction against Burton and HiringSolved, which reportedly charges subscribers $199 to $799 to access its data. LinkedIn claims the use of bots to scrape its site amounts to a breach of contract, and a violation of copyright and hacking laws. The company’s complaint also describes how Burton’s bots circumvented a variety of measures intended to prevent profile scraping.
Burton, however, denied that he is doing anything wrong.
“I can say that we do not believe we have done anything illegal. HiringSolved is in a new class of business tools called “People Aggregators” and it is considered to be one of the best in class,” said Burton in an email.
Burton’s assurances may not do much to assuage LinkedIn users whose entire profiles appear on the HiringSolved platform, where users can’t edit them.
Meanwhile, HiringSolved isn’t the only company attempting to exploit LinkedIn data. This week, the company sent a cease-and-desist to a shadowy company called Sell Hack, which offers a plug-in that reveals every LinkedIn user’s real email address via a “Hack In” button (Update: Sell Hack stated on Monday it has disabled the button).
LinkedIn provided the following statement: “As a members-first organization, we provide our members with control over the information that they make available to others on LinkedIn. When anyone tries to take away this control by scraping our members’ profiles without permission, we can and will take aggressive action to stop them and hold them accountable.”
Here’s the new complaint that names Burton: