Facebook hit by private message snooping claims


Facebook is facing legal action over claims the social networking giant snoops on users' private messages and sells information to third parties.

A lawsuit has been filed against the firm in California this week, which accuses Facebook of "misleading users" into thinking the site's messaging tools are a "secure, private mechanism" for communication.

"In fact Facebook mines user data and profits from those data by sharing them with third parties," the lawsuit states, without users' consent.

These third parties are said to include data aggregators, advertisers and marketing firms.

The legal action has been taken by Facebook users Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley, who are seeking class action status for their suit.

Facebook mines user data and profits from those data by sharing them with third parties.

The lawsuit demands $100 a day in damages for each day the alleged violations took place or $10,000 for each affected user.

The suit claims Facebook's alleged actions are duplicitous because the promise of private messaging lulls users into a false sense of security.

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

"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," it added.

A Facebook spokesperson has vehemently denied the lawsuit's claims.

"We believe the allegations are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously," the spokesperson said.

This isn't the first privacy wrangle Facebook has found itself at the centre of, as the company has repeatedly come under fire for its data handling processes in recent years.

This has led to the introduction of new privacy tools, designed to make it easier for users to shut off access to more sensitive posts.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.