Facebook scanned private messages to boost 'likes,' lawsuit claims

Facebook is being sued for allegedly scanning ​users' private messages for links to webpages, which it then treated as "likes" for those pages.

A lawsuit claims that your private Facebook messages might not be all that private.
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Facebook is in hot water again in regard to users' privacy. According to a lawsuit (PDF) certified for class action yesterday in Northern California District Court, the social-networking giant might have violated federal privacy laws by scanning users' private messages.

According to the filing, reported earlier by The Verge, plaintiffs allege that Facebook scans the content of users' private messages, and if there's a link to a webpage contained in a message, Facebook treats it as a "like" for the page. Plaintiffs further allege that Facebook uses this data regarding "likes" to compile user profiles, which it then uses to deliver targeted advertising to users.

The current certification specifies injunctive relief, meaning the plaintiffs wouldn't receive any monetary payout, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit. Instead, Facebook would simply be required to stop the practice. Plaintiffs have until June 8 to file any amended complaints.

In response to CNET's request for comment, a Facebook spokesperson said the company had long ago stopped the practice of turning embedded links in private messages into "likes" and added:

"We agree with the court's finding that the alleged conduct did not result in any actual harm and that it would be inappropriate to allow plaintiffs to seek damages on a class-wide basis. The remaining claims relate to historical practices that are entirely lawful, and we look forward to resolving those claims on the merits."