Who owns the rights to your public profile data?

We’ve had this argument on our podcasts and on this website before, but public data (like your social media public profiles for instance) rights and who can access them have generally been considered not really public but ownership of the domain on which they are hosted.

That was until today when a judge ruled that Microsoft Corp’s LinkedIn unit cannot prevent a startup from accessing public profile data, in a test of how much control a social media site can wield over information its users have deemed to be public.

This ruling is quite huge as it is questioning how much control companies have over publicly available data that is hosted on their services.

For instance, take Facebook/Instagram as an example.

Similar to Linkedin in their data policy they have a clause that states “When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).”

“When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).”

It’s kind of how viral videos or images end up in Media, companies, memes without having to notify you.

Information like your birth date, income, pages you like, job titles, marital status, posts can all be freely accessed if your settings are public.

If your profile is public then it can be scraped, copied and done with whatever.

While technically you can share what you like, you actually have agreed to Facebook owning your data and content free of charge to do with as they see fit.

In this case, Facebook uses it for ads.   Agencies (especially data analytics companies such as HiQ Labs) use this data to build profiles, marketing segments, stats for studies, trends etc which they on-sell to companies.

Linkedin however actually admitted that a user’s Linkedin data belongs to its members.

Now HiQLabs were scraping the public LinkedIn profiles when Microsoft sent them a cease and desist letter saying scraping, copying and sharing profiles of LinkedIn Users was against their policy.

HiQ Labs argued that the data they were getting was entirely public.

Since HiQ only scraped data that users chose to publish to the general public and LinkedIn publicly acknowledged that public profile data belongs to its members, hiQ did not violate LinkedIn’s terms and conditions.

This, however, didn’t stop Linkedin from purposely deploying tech to prevent scraping.

Further down the track, we arrive at today where we have the judge who rules that HiQ Labs should be able to continue and LinkedIn need to step back one.

Now while this seems like a data court battle lets put some perspective on this.

They are arguing over your personal CV details, that you made public.


So essentially a small company has said that they want to copy your CV, but LinkedIn has said your CV belongs to them…in a way.

So they go to court to argue over your CV.

And the judge essentially says your CV was publically displayed so it should be able to be copied.

Effectively overturning every social media rule that gives platforms the rights (and what you signed up for even though most unknowingly do this) to dictate how your information can be used and by whom.

Or if that’s a bit too hard to comprehend think of it like this, the judge has said that because you said you wanted to be in a telephone directory or because of your electoral roll details, anyone and everyone has the right to access.  And because the information is not the property of the telephone directory maker but the property of those who elected to have their numbers published for public use anyone can make money from the information you have willingly provided for public access.

This has huge ramifications especially in the case of net neutrality, content ownership and the roles of publishers in online content.

So how do you feel about companies fighting your CV, who do you think owns the rights to access your CV and data?

Does public mean public so everyone has the rights to access it or is it the exclusive right of a social media platform?


Who owns the rights to your publicly displayed profile?

The social media platform
Public means public so anyone should be able to access
I own the rights to my cv and my data

















Charis McAwesome

Charis McAwesome is the full time writer of hashtagme and was previously a social media manager/advisor to companies including Microsoft, Intel, Lenovo, Deloitte, Tertiary institutions, banks and many more. Charis still provides digital strategy and big data analysis as a consultant.