Suit against Facebook for Alleged Use of Private Messages for Ads

January 4, 2014, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

You don’t like Facebook accessing your private messages and using them for its advertisements, right? You are not alone. There are many who think the social network’s act is not in good spirit.

A lawyer from Arkansas, who also happens to be a political blogger, has now sued Facebook for reportedly accessing private messages to trigger advertisements .

Matt Campbell, a lawyer who is also the creator of the left-leaning site, The Blue Hog Report, has filed a class-action complaint in the district court in California. The complaint reads thus:

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Contrary to its representations, “private” Facebook messages are systematically intercepted by the Company in an effort to learn the contents of the users’ communications… This practice…enables Facebook to mine user data and profit from those data by sharing them with third parties — namely, advertisers, marketers, and other data aggregators.

A spokesperson from Facebook has been quoted as saying that the allegation has no merit at all, and that the social network will defend itself with all its might. The case is apparently based on Facebook’s alleged lack of transparency, especially about the “likes” in their pages.

It may be recalled that Hacker News had exposed, sometime last October, that a shared link in a private message between two Facebook users seems to count among the  total. This can cause a problem for Facebook as an advertiser can send ads to a user only if he has some kind of affiliation with the brand in question.

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This also includes group memberships and “likes” in the page. Facebook in fact reiterated the same stand then, to the Wall Street Journal in a follow-up story.

But Campbell is of the opinion that Facebook did invade into the users’ privacy by going through their personal messages.

Last October, Campbell also sued Arkansas Lt. Governor Mark Darr for erring with the Freedom of Information Act as he refused to give away his personal cell phone number. Campbell had also previously campaigned through his blog against Darr, citing his finance records, highlighting illegal funding and dubious expenses.  This caused the latter to end his political career after just 17 days.

Now, Campbell is asking the court to make Facebook’s alleged policy of fishing links from messages, and to make them pay a penalty to those whose messages were hacked.

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