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Facebook Faces Class Action Lawsuit For Allegedly Scanning Private Messages

The claims are "without merit" and will be contested, asserts the social network.

Facebook Faces Class Action Lawsuit For Allegedly Scanning Private Messages

[Image: Flickr user Alexandre Dulaunoy]

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Facebook, alleging that the social media giant has been scanning private messages without the consent of its users, with the intent of using the data it finds for its own profit. Two men, Michael Hurley and Matthew Campbell, filed suit with the Northern District Court of California, accusing the firm of contravening the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Their evidence centers on a report released earlier this year by a Swiss security firm which claims that Facebook scans the URLs found in private messages. "Representing to users that the content of Facebook messages is 'private' creates an especially profitable opportunity for Facebook, because 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," say the plaintiffs in the document.

The suit represents every Facebook user in the U.S. who has either sent or received a private message with a URL in it. The plaintiffs are hoping for an injunction to make the firm cease the practice, plus statutory damages, which include a fine of $100 for every day that the ECPA was violated, per person. CNET has obtained a copy of the complaint—all 36 pages of it.