If your social media profile is public … do you really have an expectation of privacy in the information it contains?

The United States’ Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals says … maybe not.

In an interim decision in the HiQ vs LinkedIn case, on the permissibility of web-scraping public profiles, the court analyzed the privacy of public social media profiles. It upheld a lower court ruling  denying LinkedIn an injunction seeking to block HiQ’s access to publicly available LinkedIn profiles.

Some takeaways that apply to social media profiles generally:

  • If your profile is set to “public”, it is doubtful that you have an expectation of privacy in the contents of your profile.
  • This is especially the case if:
    • the privacy statement for the platform clearly discloses that information on the profile may be seen by others and
    • the social media platform has services that allow third parties to view public profiles, export information from them or get alerts on changes.
  • Choosing a profile setting that prohibits certain types of sharing from your public profile does not in itself create an expectation of privacy.
  • If you would like to prevent your employers or others from seeing information about your job / status updates, choose a private setting for your profile and don’t include your employer as your contact / social media friend.

Read the court ruling.