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SCOTUS Interpretation of CFAA A Win for Collecting Data With Web Scraping

Center for Data Innovation: “Web scraping—the use of automated tools to extract data from websites—helps businesses, researchers, and others quickly and efficiently gather publicly available information from the Internet, such as consumer product reviews or social media posts, that would otherwise require significant labor to collect. Unfortunately, uncertainty about the legality of scraping under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) has limited how and when organizations gather publicly available data. However, a recent Supreme Court decision has provided more clarity on the CFAA, opening the doors for more legal web scraping. Enacted in 1986, the CFAA states that anyone who “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization” or “exceeds authorized access” is in violation of the statute. However, the CFAA does not clearly define what this means in practice. For decades, a circuit split meant that different parts of the country operated under different interpretations—criminal penalties could apply to those who scraped websites in some states but not in others. In 2016, LinkedIn filed suit against hiQ Labs, a start-up that provides analytics to employers about their workers, such as predictions about employee attrition, for scraping publicly available data in user profiles. LinkedIn argued that scraping data amounts to hacking under the CFAA since the company prohibits this practice, while HiQ argued that the CFAA does not apply to publicly available data. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in hiQ’s favor, but LinkedIn appealed. The Supreme Court announced on June 14 it would send hiQ Labs v. LinkedIn back to the Ninth Circuit in light of a recent ruling in a similar case that clarified a historically controversial section of the CFAA…”

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