Four plaintiffs filed a class-action suit in US district court in San Jose on Friday claiming that LinkedIn used its members’ identities without consent and broke into their third-party e-mail accounts to send promotional e-mails to the members’ contact lists.

The 46-page complaint details many instances in which users complained to LinkedIn about this practice, especially in instances where LinkedIn sent e-mails to “the addresses of spouses, clients, opposing counsel, etc.” LinkedIn, the plaintiffs claim, “provides no functional way to stop multiple subsequent advertising e-mails from being sent.” The plaintiffs say that the extent of the data-gathering was not adequately conveyed in the Terms of Service. “If a LinkedIn user leaves an external e-mail account open,” the complaint continues, “LinkedIn pretends to be that user and downloads the e-mail addresses contained anywhere in that account to Linkedln’s servers. LinkedIn is able to download these addresses without requesting the password for the external e-mail accounts or obtaining users’ consent.”     

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