A class action lawsuit commenced this week in the Ontario Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook illicitly intercepted and scanned its users' private messages without their knowledge or consent.
The lawsuit alleges that URLs in users' private messages were harvested by Facebook in violation of users' privacy and that the world's largest social network did this in order to attract increased advertising revenue. The class action lawsuit includes all Canadian resident Facebook users who sent or received private messages containing URLs up to October 2012.
The practice was stopped in October 2012 when an investigation by security researchers was published in the Wall Street Journal. However, according to the suit, Facebook did not acknowledge its actions nor apologize to users, but "quietly shelved the practice."
"Facebook intercepted its users' private messages for its own commercial gain and has never acknowledged or apologized for its behaviour," said Joel Rochon, partner at Rochon Genova LLP, who is representing the class members. "Social networking sites such as this need to be held publicly accountable. Surreptitious surveillance of private communications cannot be tolerated in a democratic society."
Facebook's Data Use Policy provides that private messages are just that—private. None of Facebook's policies disclosed to users that their private messages would be systematically intercepted and scanned, the suit affirms. But in doing so Facebook was able to gather more user data which it could then use to enhance the reach and accuracy of its targeted advertising, its chief source of revenue.
The class action lawsuit includes all Canadian resident Facebook users who sent or received private messages containing URLs up to October 2012. There are more than 18 million Facebook users in Canada - and around three-quarters of them log on to Facebook at least once a day.
There are more than 18 million Facebook users in Canada.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.