Facebook Sued Over Private Message Snooping Allegations

By Gerald Lynch on at

Your Facebook "Private" messages may not be all that private after all, with an investigation into Facebook's chat-monitoring habits leading to the social network facing a class action lawsuit.

Filed earlier this week, the lawsuit claims that Facebook scans website links sent within the social network's private chat system, and uses that to build a user profile that it then sells on to data aggregators and advertisers.

Plaintiffs Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley cite independent research, and gave a statement saying that:

Representing to users that the content of Facebook messages is "private" creates an especially profitable opportunity for Facebook.

[Users] who believe they are communicating on a service free from surveillance are likely to reveal facts about themselves that they would not reveal had they known the content was being monitored. Thus, Facebook has positioned itself to acquire pieces of the users' profiles that are likely unavailable to other data aggregators.

The plaintiffs seek the greater of either $100 (£61) for each day of snooping, or $10,000 (£6,077) for each user involved in the lawsuit. Facebook states that the allegations are "without merit" and would be defended against "vigorously", but it wouldn't be the first time it was called out in court over privacy concerns. In 2011 it was required to pay out $20 million (£12,154,000) in compensation to those who stated that Facebook had used their data without permission, while the proposed introduction of adverts using a person's name and profile pictures last September was met with anger by many users. [BBC]