Maybe Your Private Messages Aren’t So Private: Facebook in Class Action Lawsuit for Scanning Messages

Maybe Your Private Messages Aren't So Private Facebook in Class Action Lawsuit for Scanning MessagesWhether you like or dislike Facebook, one thing is for sure: Facebook’s drive to monetize is making the social media company take risks.

Now Facebook Inc. faces a class action lawsuit for purportedly scanning the details in private Facebook messages it later used to target advertising.

Facebook wanted the lawsuit thrown out, but that was not to be. The judge in the case said the case will proceed.

“The lawsuit claims that Facebook used mentions of websites in private messages as a tally of “Likes,” which the site then used to display targeted advertising to those users,” noted Silicon Angle in a recent post. “Facebook is not the first service to use the content of messages to cater advertising to users. Google Inc.’s Gmail would scan emails for key words to display unobtrusive text ads in a banner above the message.”

While Google didn’t retain information, Facebook’s systems differ. Facebook allegedly retained information taken from the private messages, saved it, and used it to create a “user profile” to cater ads over time.

“Effectively, this means that Facebook kept the tallies of the websites each person talked about on file and used that information to display ads on a longer time frame,” said Silicon Angle.

The judge in the case isn’t buying the argument that this is sanctioned activity under terms of service agreements users assent to when they use Facebook.

“[Facebook has] not offered a sufficient explanation of how the challenged practice falls within the ordinary course of its business,” said the judge in the case.

Word is that Facebook no longer scans private messages to find advertising opportunities, though the company still tracks them for anti-virus purposes.