The professional networking site LinkedIn has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Indianapolis-based tech company Kennected, accusing it of engaging in multiple violations of LinkedIn’s user agreement.
Kennected, founded in 2018, offers software that allows users to automate their outreach to prospective customers via LinkedIn. Just over half of the company’s 140 employees work at its headquarters in Pan Am Tower, with the others working either remotely around the U.S. or in a coding and development office in India.
In a letter to Kennected this week, a copy of which was obtained by IBJ, LinkedIn accuses the company of, among other things, scraping LinkedIn members’ profiles and exporting their data without the members’ consent; and offering tools that “impermissibly automate mass, inauthentic activity” on LinkedIn’s platform.
These activities are violations of LinkedIn’s terms of service, the letter says. “Services like Kennected that scrape member data and facilitate the use of automated fake engagement will not be tolerated.”
Kennected cofounder and CEO Devin Johnson said the company was “blindsided” by the communication, which he and his cofounders received via email at 1:04 a.m. Friday.
“We were surprised by the letter, as we believe we are compliant,” Johnson said. “We are working to address any issues and look forward to a successful resolution with LinkedIn.”
The cease-and-desist letter requests that Kennected stop using software or programs that automate activity on LinkedIn, scrape member data or otherwise violate LinkedIn’s user agreement. Among other things, the letter also requests Kennected to destroy all data and documents that were obtained from LinkedIn’s website.
Johnson said Kennected continues to operate as usual and customers can use the Kennected platform as they always have.
LinkedIn is giving Kennected until Dec. 15 to respond.
Johnson said he does not know why LinkedIn sent the letter to Kennected now. He said Kennected had not had any previous communications with LinkedIn, written or verbally, in which LinkedIn had expressed concerns about Kennected’s activities.
LinkedIn has a history of asserting itself against companies that it believes are violating its terms of service.
This week, LinkedIn reached a confidential settlement with California-based HiQ Labs Inc. in a complex legal dispute that dates back to 2017. Each of the two companies had filed lawsuits against the other, with LinkedIn alleging that HiQ was scraping data from the networking site in violation of its user agreement.
“This establishes an important legal precedent to stop this kind of abuse in the future and reaffirms that LinkedIn’s user agreement unambiguously protects members from unauthorized data scraping and fake accounts,” LinkedIn attorney Sarah Wight wrote in a LinkedIn post. Wight leads the company’s litigation, competition and enforcement legal teams.
In February, LinkedIn filed a data-scraping lawsuit against Singapore-based Mantheos Pte. LTD. In May, the parties reached a settlement in which Mantheos was barred from using LinkedIn’s website and destroyed the LinkedIn member profile data it had collected.