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Facebook Status: Sued For Alleged Private-Message Snooping

Complaint alleges that private messages are scanned to mine data for advertisers

Some Facebook users aren’t “liking” the way that the company is allegedly handling their private messages — and they’re suing-mad over it.

The social network has been hit with a class action lawsuit by a pair of users who claim that the company is scanning people’s private messages for profit.

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In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in northern California on Monday, Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley allege that private messages are “systematically intercepted” by Facebook for financial gain.

“When a user composes a Facebook message and includes a link to a third party or website (a ‘URL’), the Company scans the content of the Facebook message, follows the enclosed link, and searches for information to profile the message-sender’s web activity,” the lawsuit reads. “The practice is not done to facilitate the transmission of users’ communications via Facebook, but because it enables Facebook to mine user data and profit from those data by sharing them with third parties — namely, advertisers, marketers, and other data aggregators.”

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The alleged practice, the lawsuit claims, runs contrary to privacy assurances that Facebook makes to its users.

“These assurances affirmatively state that only senders and intended recipients are privy to the contents of their nonpublic communications,” the lawsuit reads. “In reality, Facebook never intended to provide this level of confidentiality. Instead, Facebook mines any and all transmissions across its network, including those it labels ‘private,’ in order to gather any and all morsels of information it can about its users.”

Facebook denies wrongdoing.

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“We believe the allegations are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously,” a Facebook spokesperson told TheWrap in a statement.

Alleging violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Violations of the California Invasion of Privacy Act and other counts, the suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, plus an award of statutory damages, attorneys’ fees and court costs.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.