Published On: Mon, Dec 29th, 2014

Judge Dismisses Facebook Request to Drop Class-Action Suit over Scanning Private Messages


U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton 2

A U.S. District Court judge in Oakland, California, has ruled that Facebook must face a class action lawsuit for allegedly violating users’ privacy by scanning the content of messages they sent one another for advertising purposes, Reuters reported.

Judge Phyllis Hamilton dismissed on December 23 a few state-law claims against Facebook, but in the end rejected the social network’s request to dismiss the entire suit, known as Campbell v. Facebook.

The suit was filed by Facebook user Matthew Campbell and seeks class action status on behalf of U.S. users who sent or received private messages that included website addresses in their content.

Facebook argued that the alleged scanning of messages is permitted for interceptions by service providers occurring in the ordinary course of business, under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Hamilton suggested Facebook had “not offered a sufficient explanation of how the challenged practice falls within the ordinary course of its business.”

The lawsuit was filed in 2013, over Facebook’s alleged scanning of private messages for links to various websites, and then counted those link as “likes” for those pages.

The “likes” were used in compiling user profiles, which were packaged with similar profiles for targeting by advertisers, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint argued that scanning private messages violates federal and California state law.

Facebook stated it had stopped the practice back in 2012. But it admitted it still analyzes private messages but only to protect against viruses and spam.

The judge’s ruling stated that Facebook’s “unwillingness” to offer details about its targeted ads business “prevents the court from being able to determine whether the specific practice challenged in this case should be considered ‘ordinary.’ ”

And so, to court they will go.

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