10 Apr 2014

Facebook Accused of Snooping on Private Messages

Facebook is being sued in a class action by some 18 million Canadian users for violating their privacy rights after allegedly intercepting their private Facebook messages, according to PCWorld.

Facebook allegedly harvested the URLs found in users’ private conversations without their knowledge or consent, according to Rochon Genova LLP, the law firm representing the plaintiffs. The links discovered were transformed in new Likes for other businesses’ sites via the social plugin.

This practice, first disclosed in a 2008 Wall Street Journal investigation, supposedly allowed Facebook to gather more customer insight and perfect its targeted advertising techniques.

"Facebook intercepted its users' private messages for its own commercial gain and has never acknowledged or apologized for its behavior," said Joel Rochon, partner at Rochon Genova LLP, in a press release. "Social networking sites such as this need to be held publicly accountable.”

On its official page, when asked about advertisers having access to users’ personal information, Facebook says: “No, our ad targeting is done anonymously by our system, without sharing personally identifiable information with advertisers. We don't sell any of your information to anyone and we never will.”

The lawsuit involves some Facebook users from Canada who sent or received messages with links until October 2012.

This is the latest in a series of controversial incidents involving Facebook. Researchers found that the social network’s Android app seeks permission to read people’s private messages to allegedly connect phone numbers with accounts.