Tuesday’s Northern District of California complaint against Mantheos Pte. Ltd., Jeremiah Tang, Yuxi Chew, and Stan Kosyakov claims that they illegally profit from scraping data from LinkedIn’s website, in violation of its terms of services and to its users’ detriment. To perpetuate their scheme, the defendants allegedly used myriad fake LinkedIn accounts to gain access to areas of its platform accessible only to real, logged-in LinkedIn members, and in the process, scammed the company out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to the filing, the defendants “are not shy about their illegal conduct.” It alleges that defendants sell on-demand scraping of over twenty LinkedIn member data fields including professionals’ work experience, education, skills, titles, and posts.
The complaint alleges that such conduct undermines LinkedIn’s members’ privacy and control over their information as well as their trust in the platform. Furthermore, the information can end up in any number of databases used for any purpose and can be leveraged to spam members without recourse.
In order to effectuate their scheme, the defendants purportedly signed up for one-month free trials of LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, “a paid subscription service that provides sales professionals with services that promote quick identification and creation of new customer leads and sales opportunities, in addition to helping professionals stay current about their existing connections and key accounts.”
Using fake accounts accompanied by prepaid debit cards, the defendants would scrape data during the trial period, then, once LinkedIn tried to collect fees for the subscription renewal, the card would be declined. According to the complaint, this act of deception and improper use of the platform cost LinkedIn six figure losses. In addition, the filing notes that the defendants used, without permission, LinkedIn’s trademarks and dress, giving the false impression that LinkedIn sanctioned or is associated with the defendants’ business.
The complaint seeks both injunctive relief and monetary damages and states claims for breach of contract, fraud and deceit, and misappropriation. It also states Lanham Act claims for trademark dilution by disparagement. LinkedIn is represented by Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.
This is not the first case of data scraping LinkedIn has prosecuted. Last year, the Supreme Court sided with LinkedIn and ordered further consideration of whether hiQ Labs violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act when it used bots to harvest individuals’ personal data from computer servers that host LinkedIn’s public-facing web pages.