Facebook sued over allegations of scanning private messages [Big News Network (United Arab Emirates)]
(Big News Network (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge)
WASHINGTON - Facebook is being sued by two users who claim the social networking site monitors users' private messages before selling the information to advertisers, marketers and data aggregators.
Facebook users Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley have brought the lawsuit against Facebook in the US, claiming the company has violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
The lawsuit filed by the two on Dec 30 in the District Court for Northern California is on behalf of all Facebook members in the US who have used the site to send or receive private messages that include a URL link.
The lawsuit accused Facebook of using the information for "data mining and user profiling", and said that Facebook earned $2.7billion from targeted advertising sales in 2011.
The lawsuit claims the scanning 'is a mechanism for Facebook to surreptitiously gather data in an effort to improve its marketing algorithms and increase its ability to profit from data about Facebook users'.
It adds 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.'
Facebook denied the claims in a statement, saying: 'We believe the allegations are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously.'
According to the lawsuit, Facebook looks at messages containing hyperlinks, follows the link and profiles the web activity of the user. If it finds a link to a website that also has Facebook's social plugin, Facebook registers up to two Likes for the web page via the social media plugin.
Jackie Rooney, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said the company regards the allegations as "without merit."
The plaintiffs are seeking a court order certifying the case as a group, or class action, lawsuit on behalf of all Facebook users who have sent or received a private message in the past two years that included Web links. They are also asking to bar Facebook from continuing to intercept messages and seek as much as $10,000 in damages for each user.
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