LinkedIn will have to face a lawsuit that alleges it damaged the image of users by repeatedly sending emails to their contacts inviting them to join the social network.
The lawsuit was filed in September 2013 and LinkedIn had attempted to get it dismissed, but in a ruling on Thursday Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said the case would continue, albeit in a narrowed form.
At the center of the case is a function on the LinkedIn website that allows users to invite people to connect with them. Users are able to give LinkedIn access to their address books from email services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail and LinkedIn will find existing members and offer to send an email invitation to those people who aren’t signed up to the site.
The invitation email is personalized with the name of the user doing the inviting and doesn’t go out once but three times.
“Nothing in LinkedIns disclosures alerts users to the possibility that their contacts will receive not just one invitation, but three. In fact, by stating a mere three screens before the disclosure regarding the first invitation that ‘We will not . . . email anyone without your permission,’ LinkedIn may have actively led users astray,” Judge Koh wrote in her ruling.
The plaintiffs allege that because LinkedIn gets an economic benefit from signing up more users, the repeated emails have violated California’s common law right of publicity. The law is intended to protect people from having their likeness used in an unauthorized way for commercial purposes.
“The Court notes that this type of injury, using an individuals name for personalized marketing purposes, is precisely the type of harm that Californias common law right of publicity is geared toward preventing,” said Koh.