Facebook faces lawsuit for allegedly scanning private messages

Facebook is charged with scanning private messages to profile users

Facebook has been accused of intercepting private messages of its users to provide data to marketers, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in a federal court in California.

The social networking company scanned plaintiffs' private messages containing URLs (uniform resource locators) and searched the website identified in the URL for "purposes including but not limited to data mining and user profiling," according to the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The company does not engage in the practice to facilitate the transmission of users' communications via Facebook, but to enable it to mine user data and profit by sharing the data with third parties such as advertisers, marketers, and other data aggregators, the complaint said.

Facebook is said to have violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and California privacy laws by its intentional interception of electronic communications.

The complaint cites third-party research to back its claim that Facebook is intercepting and scanning the content of private messages. Swiss firm High-Tech Bridge, for example, reported in August it used a dedicated Web server and generated a secret URL for each of the 50 largest social networks, Web services and free email systems it was testing for their respect of user privacy.

HTB then used the private messaging function of each of the services, embedding a unique URL in each message, and monitored its dedicated Web server's logs for all incoming HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) requests, in order to see whether any of the services would "click" on the test URLs that had been transmitted via private message, the complaint said.

"Facebook was one of the Web Services that was caught scanning URLs despite such activity remaining undisclosed to the user," according to the complaint.

The lawsuit has been brought by Facebook users Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley on behalf of all Facebook users in the U.S. who have sent or received private Facebook messages that included a URL in the content of the message.

On Nov. 15, 2010, Facebook announced a new, integrated email and messaging service for its users, that combined the functionality of email, chat, SMS, and in- service messaging. Facebook took special pains to tout the privacy features of its new private messaging service, stressing unprecedented user control and privacy, according to the complaint.

In its communications about the service, the social network is said to have made representations that "reflect the promise that only the sender and the recipient or recipients will be privy to the private message's content, to the exclusion of any other party, including Facebook."

The lawsuit asks for class-action status, an injunction against Facebook's practices and damages from the company to class members. It claims the greater of either US$100 a day for each day of alleged violation or $10,000, for each user claimed to be affected, besides damages under California law.

"We believe the allegations are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously," Facebook said in an emailed statement.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments
cmo-xs-promo

Latest Videos

More Videos

Focus on your customer experience not your NPS score. Fix the fucking problems and the customer support requests will go away.I currently...

Chris B

Bringing community thinking to Optus' customer service team

Read more

Nice blog!Blog is really informative , valuable.keep updating us with such amazing blogs.influencer agency in Melbourne

Rajat Kumar

Why flipping Status Quo Bias is the key to B2B marketing success

Read more

good this information are very helpful for millions of peoples customer loyalty Consultant is an important part of every business.

Tom Devid

Report: 4 ways to generate customer loyalty

Read more

Great post, thanks for sharing such a informative content.

CodeWare Limited

APAC software company brings on first VP of growth

Read more

This article highlights Gartner’s latest digital experience platforms report and how they are influencing content operations ecosystems. ...

vikram Roy

Gartner 2022 Digital Experience Platforms reveals leading vendor players

Read more

Blog Posts

Marketing overseas? 4 ways to make your message stick

Companies encounter a variety of challenges when it comes to marketing overseas. Marketing departments often don’t know much about the business and cultural context of the international audiences they are trying to reach. Sometimes they are also unsure about what kind of marketing they should be doing.

Cynthia Dearin

Author, business strategist, advisor

From unconscious to reflective: What level of data user are you?

Using data is a hot topic right now. Leaders are realising data can no longer just be the responsibility of dedicated analysts or staff with ‘data’ in their title or role description.

Dr Selena Fisk

Data expert, author

Whose responsibility is it to set the ground rules for agency collaboration?

It’s not that your agencies don’t have your best interests at heart – most of them do. But the only way to ensure they’re 100 per cent focused on your business and not growing theirs by scope creep is by setting the guard rails for healthy agency collaboration.

Andrew Pascoe

Head of planning, Hatched

Sign in