Plaintiffs recently filed a putative class action suit against the networking site LinkedIn in California federal court. The claim, brought under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, raises questions as to whether the law should apply more broadly than just to the reporting of consumer credit. This Recorder story details the plaintiffs’ theory of the case:

According to the suit, LinkedIn can mine the information provided by users of its professional networking website to find potential references for job applicants without the applicants' knowledge. Searches yield a list of the names and current job titles for potential references, along with the common employer they share with the applicant and time worked together.

The complaint claims that these reference lists amount to a consumer report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and that LinkedIn fails to abide by safeguards required under the law.

"In essence, 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 FCRA," write the plaintiffs lawyers at Greenwald Davidson in Boca Raton, Fla., and the Law Offices Todd Friedman in Beverly Hills. Plaintiffs are asking for statutory damages for willful violation of the FCRA, which run from $100 to $1,000 per violation.

More details on this case are available here and here.