It probably doesn’t come as a surprise anymore that Facebook is being sued yet again for invasions of privacy. But perhaps its even more frightening that we have started to expect this as ordinary. This time the social network giant is being sued for scanning private messages for the sake of, what else, eventually converting information into targeted ads for the user. And although Facebook has supposedly stopped doing so since 2012, the court says that Facebook still has a lot to answer for.
The case was actually filed back in 2013 by Matthew Campbell on behalf of Facebook users in the US. The class action suit accuses Facebook of violating users’ privacy by scanning contents of messages. It does so in order to gather links contained in messages in order to tally the amount of reference that a page or site gets. This data is compiled into a profile for each user that is used for customizing ads.
Interestingly, Facebook doesn’t deny doing so but it is taking a different appeal to escape criminal liability. It claims that its actions fall under an exception in the the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act that allows it to scan such communication in the ordinary course of its business. U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, however, says that Facebook has failed to clarify what exactly constitutes its “ordinary course of business” and it will now have to do so in court.
Although it supposedly stop scanning messages for advertising purposes since 2012, Facebook does admit that it still does so for the sake of fighting viruses and spam, though that might still not be enough for the plaintiffs. The case, filed in the Northern District of California last year, seek $10,000 in damages for each user. The total amount is not yet known at this point. Neither Facebook nor the plaintiff’s lawyer have commented on the ruling.