Two Facebook users are suing the social network for looking at the content of users’ communications, including private messages, and mining that content for user data to share with third parties like advertisers and marketers.
In a Dec. 30 class action complaint, which drew up on a lot of the research from a series of articles by the Wall Street Journal , the two plaintiffs said they feel Facebook Inc.’s use of the word “private” to describe its messaging system is misleading, Ars Technica reports.
The plaintiffs are seeking more than $100 per day of violation, or $10,000 per class member in the lawsuit. They also are looking for statutory damages of either $5,000 per class member or a sum of three times the amount of actual damages, depending on what amount is greater.
“Facebook never intended to provide this level of confidentiality. Instead, Facebook mines any and all transmission … in order to gather any and all morsels of information it can about its users,” the plaintiffs said in their filing.
The lawsuit said Facebook “clicks” on links in Facebook messages, something it doesn’t really share with its users. Then it looks at the linked page to see if there are any Facebook “Like” buttons on it. If there are, then Facebook will save the link as a “Like” on the site’s Facebook page.
It also alleges Facebook uses both software and humans to look through private messages to scoop up data, some of which is sold to third parties.
Still, the plaintiffs say although Facebook has a data use policy, it doesn’t explain enough about how it “scans, mines, and manipulates the content of its users’ private messages … in direct conflict with the assurances it provides to its users regarding the privacy and control they should expect.”
Facebook isn’t the first company to land in hot water for using private messages for profit. For the last 10 years, Gmail has been displaying text ads to users, based on the contents of their emails, and Gmail has been sued for it.
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