Feeds

Facebook bots grope our 'privates', and every wronged user should get $10,000 – lawsuit claims

Allegations over message scanning 'without merit'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Two Facebook users have begun a class-action lawsuit that alleges the social network's "private" messaging system is a lie.

The pair, Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley, reckon each of the website's estimated 166 million US users should get a payday of up to $10,000 apiece as compensation.

The suit, filed in California, states that Facebook explicitly promises that the content of private messages won't be shared with third parties. But, it claims, if a URL is included in a message then Facebook's software automatically parses the web address and the content of the message to hone its targeted advertising.

"Facebook misleads users into believing that they have a secure, private mechanism for communication – Facebook's private messaging function – when, in fact, Facebook intercepts and scans the content and treats portions of that content no differently than a public 'Like' or post, broadcast openly across the Internet," the court filing claims.

"Further, the purpose for the invasive scanning of these purportedly 'private' messages is not meant for the benefit of users, but rather 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."

The suit alleges that while users are kept in the dark over private message processing, the social network's "web crawlers" notify third parties when their websites are referred to in messages by URL – just as though they had received public "Likes" on their web pages.

The plaintiffs say this behavior was exposed by two separate security researchers last year and as a result they are asking for a class-action case to be brought against Facebook. In August, Swiss researchers at High-Tech Bridge said they spotted the practice, and were backed in October by Ashkan Soltani, formerly an FTC investigator and now an independent security consultant.

The suit asks that any user who has sent messages with URLs in them should be able to claim up to $10,000 – meaning the potential payout by Facebook could be as high as $166bn, or about $30bn more than the firm's market capitalization today.

Facebook spokeswoman Jackie Rooney told Bloomberg the case was "without merit." ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up
Turning it off and on again fixes glitch 12 HOURS LATER
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
Ofcom tackles complaint over Premier League footie TV rights
Virgin Media: UK fans pay the most for the fewest matches
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.