Facebook Private Messages Aren't So Private: Suit

Network scans them to boost its ad sales, a California lawsuit claims
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2014 11:14 AM CST
Facebook Private Messages Aren't So Private: Suit
Facebook's User Operations Safety Team workers look at reviews at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

An alarming claim has popped up in a California class action lawsuit: Facebook is accused of violating privacy boundaries by reading your private messages whenever it fancies. The suit claims the social network scans private messages, looking for websites users send to each other, for "purposes including but not limited to data mining and user profiling," PC World reports. GigaOm explains it's all for ad opportunities, with the goal of increasing the number of "Likes" for those websites, thus boosting Facebook in the eyes of advertisers. It's a clear violation of state and federal privacy laws, the suit notes.

The foundation for the lawsuit—which asks for the greater payment of either $100 a day for each day of alleged violation, or $10,000, for each user affected—comes from a Swiss security firm: It reported that the number of page "Likes" go up when Facebook users send that page via a URL in private. According to the suit, that's proof that Facebook's claim that private messages are only viewed by the sender and recipient is just plain bogus. "We believe the allegations are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously," a Facebook rep says. Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn are each facing similar accusations, Bloomberg notes. (More Facebook stories.)

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