Facebook Accused Of Reading Private Messages, Selling Data

01/03/2014 11:12 am ET | Updated Jan 25, 2014
  • Alexis Kleinman Deputy Managing Editor Of Impact & Innovation, The Huffington Post
Bloomberg via Getty Images

One aspect of the long-running debate about Facebook privacy may soon be heading to court.

Two Facebook users, Michael Hurley and Matthew Campbell, filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook on Dec. 30, 2013, alleging that the social network "has systematically violated consumers’ privacy by reading its users’ personal, private Facebook messages without their consent."

The lawsuit also alleges that when Facebook finds a link in a private message, it essentially clicks on the URL and if that site has a Facebook "Like" button, the inclusion of the URL in that message is registered as a "Like" for that webpage.

The plaintiffs want Facebook to pay each member of the class action lawsuit "$100 a day for each day of violation or $10,000."

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2012 that Facebook was scanning private messages and also registering "Likes" for links in private messages. According to the WSJ, Facebook said it filtered private messages for spam or hints of criminal activity, but also promised that "absolutely no private information has been exposed."

"The complaint is without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously," a Facebook spokesperson told the Huffington Post.

The lawsuit alleges that Facebook, rather than just filtering messages for spam, mines them for data that it sells to advertisers, marketers and other data-miners. In 2011, the company made $2.7 billion in targeted ad sales, according to the lawsuit.

Facebook is not the only company accused of reading personal correspondence for one reason or another. Google has also been sued for reading Gmail users' emails without their consent.

Internet security expert Graham Cluley argued recently that it's in our best interest for Facebook to scan our messages. "[I]f you didn’t properly scan and check links, there’s a very real risk that spam, scams, phishing attacks, and malicious URLs designed to infect recipients’ computers with malware could run rife," Cluley wrote.

Earlier on HuffPost:

9 Gadgets To Help You Avoid Surveillance

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