Facebook Scans Users' Private Messages, Lawsuit Claims

A lawsuit alleges Facebook scans URLs in private messages to monitor Web activity for advertisers.
Posted at 3:39 PM, Jan 03, 2014

Facebook is joining the likes of Google, Yahoo! and LinkedIn as it now faces a lawsuit that claims the social media giant is selling advertisers information from users' private messages. 

The lawsuit, brought up on behalf of all U.S. users who have exchanged private messages that included a URL, is seeking class-action status. (Via Businessweek)

It claims Facebook systematically scans private messages to obtain links to third-party websites, then profiles the message-sender's Web activity. (Via Euronews)

The two plaintiffs, Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley, say Facebook is treating the links to other websites as "likes" to add to Facebook users' profiles, which advertisers can use to target their ads. (Via Time)

The suit claims Facebook's scanning practice violates privacy laws as well as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. It seeks an injunction against Facebook and statutory damages, including $100 for each day that Facebook violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act for each user affected. (Via Businessweek, CNET)

However, a Facebook spokesperson says the company views the allegations as "without merit" and is prepared to defend itself. (Via CNET)

Suits were brought against Google and Yahoo! late last year for similar alleged privacy violations in its practice of scanning emails to target ads. (Via BloombergBusiness Insider)

Those critical of Facebook's suit say it's a waste of time and that there's an assumed lack of privacy for anything posted online. A court date has not yet been set.