LinkedIn recently settled class action claims arising out of the site’s Add Connections feature, which allegedly accessed plaintiffs’ email contacts without their express consent in an effort to increase the number of site users. 

LinkedIn recently settled class action claims arising out of the site’s Add Connections feature, which allegedly accessed plaintiffs’ email contacts without their express consent in an effort to increase the number of site users. According to the complaint, LinkedIn collected email addresses from members’ address books and then sent multiple emails “from” the user that advertised the site to nonmembers. Plaintiffs argued they had no functional way to stop the subsequent email blasts, while LinkedIn claimed that its members consented to the practice at sign up through a series of permission screens.

LinkedIn has now agreed to pay $13 million into a fund to provide cash payouts to eligible class members and an additional $3.25 million in attorneys’ fees. LinkedIn has further agreed to revise the on-screen disclaimers about its Add Connections feature. The site originally stated that LinkedIn would not “email anyone without your permission.” In contrast, the new disclosure will state that the site will “import your address book,” which means “we’ll upload detailed information about your contacts to our LinkedIn servers” to help users find connections on LinkedIn. Users will also be told that “[i]f someone you invite doesn’t respond right away, we’ll send up to two reminders.” Separately, users will have the ability to withdraw connection invitations and thus prevent the site from sending such follow-up emails to certain contacts.

TIP: This case and settlement is a reminder of the concern that failure to disclose uses of address book information can result in potential allegations of unfairness and deception.