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Facebook sued for allegedly intercepting private messages

Just how private are your Facebook messages? A new suit charges that the company mines your messages for profit.

facebook flag
The Facebook icon flag at the social network's Menlo Park, Calif., campus.

Facebook is facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly violating its members' right to privacy. The social network is being sued by members who claim that the company intercepts private messages, without consent, to mine the data for its own profit.

On Monday, Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley filed suit against Facebook with the Northern District Court of California. The men accuse Facebook of scanning private messages with URLs in them "for purposes including but not limited to data mining and user profiling." The suit asserts that this practice is a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

"We believe the allegations are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement shared with CNET.

The suit, however, cites a report from Swiss security firm High-Tech Bridge that suggests that Facebook scans the links shared in private messages. It also references stories in the media relating to Facebook's third-party plug-ins for counting "likes" shared through 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," the plaintiffs said in their complaint.

The suit, which is seeking class action status, was brought on behalf of all U.S. users who have sent or received private messages that included a URL in the message. The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction against Facebook to stop the practice of scanning URLs in messages, as well as statutory damages, which includes $100 for each day that Facebook violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, per each member of the class.

The complaint is embedded in its entirety below.

[via Bloomberg]