Monday, October 20, 2014

Moving to WordPress

I am very pleased to announce that The Privacy and IP Law Blog is in the process of moving to WordPress, and to a dedicated domain –!  The blog will operate on both the location and on the new location for a few months while all the kinks are worked out.  Ultimately, the RSS Feed and subscriber links will also move to WordPress.

Why the switch?
Well, for the past year or so, my traditional way of blogging (writing the material offline, double-checking all of the hyperlinks before publication, then posting in draft form, etc.) has been disrupted by some updates within MS Word that appear to now make it impossible to publish offline to a blog.

Specifically, I can no longer write the posts in Word and update them to the blog for further editing and customization, which has required online access more consistently in order to publish (not always easy when traveling!).  I’ve attempted to find fixes or patches to this issue – but it appears even though this concern is somewhat common, there is no fix.  The discussion boards are rich with complaints about this recent modification to the interactivity between Blogger (owned by Google) and MS Word (owned by Microsoft) – with no remedies.
As a result, my ability to post in a streamlined, time-efficient way has been disrupted.

Hence, fewer posts.
So, after researching for the past few months to find an alternative, I’ve decided to register my own domain and host it through WordPress.  We’ll give this a try for a while and see how it goes.  With any luck, I’ll be able to write more frequently, without as many administrative headaches, and keep this a robust site.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

LinkedIn Sued for Providing “Trusted References” to Paying Subscribers

On October 9, 2014, a class action complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging that LinkedIn violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., (“FRCA”) by offering to subscribers reports containing “Trusted References” without complying with the FCRA’s requirements to keep the data safe from disclosure. Sweet v. LinkedIn Corp., Civ. A. No. 5:14-cv-04531 (N.D. Cal. filed Oct. 9, 2014) (available at Law360 - subscription required).

Specifically, the complaint alleges that LinkedIn: 1) failed to comply with the certification and disclosure requirements of the FRCA for credit reporting agencies who furnish consumer reports for employment purposes; 2) failed to maintain reasonable procedures to limit the furnishing of consumer reports for the purposes enumerated in the FRCA and to assure the maximum possible accuracy of these reports; and 3) failed to provide the notices required by the FRCA to users of the consumer reports.  Id. at 2.  Plaintiffs seek both damages for past violations and injunctive relief to prevent the continued misuse of these reports in violation of the FRCA.  Id. 

These “reference reports” compile information about “people in your network who can provide reliable feedback about a job candidate or business prospect” – including a list of others in your network who worked at the same company as the job candidate during the same time period.  Id. at 7 (citing LinkedIn’s Premium Help Center); see also Trusted References for Job Candidates (last updated 4/21/14); Reference Search (last updated 11/27/13).  In addition, these reference reports encourage the potential employer to contact these references either through a formal Introduction or through inMail – both of which are communication methods available to LinkedIn members.  Compl. at 7.

Notably, LinkedIn users are not notified when a potential employer requests one of these reference reports about them.  Id. at 8.  As a result, the complaint concludes:  “any potential employer can anonymously dig into the employment history of any LinkedIn member, and 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 that the potential employer has obtained.”  Id.
In essence, the complaint alleges that 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 FRCA.”  Id. at 9.  In all, the complaint alleges five counts of FRCA violations, seeks damages and injunctive relief, and seeks a jury trial.

Next Steps
LinkedIn has the option of answering the complaint or making any one of a number of 12(b) motions to challenge the sufficiency of the complaint.  It may take some time before this issue is ripe for decision (any decision) by the court.