Facebook Facing Class Action Suit Over Privacy

California lawsuit alleges social net mined users' private messages

Facebook is starting off the year under fire once again for allegations that it has violated its users' privacy. Two Facebook users have filed against the social network for using the content of private messages as data for targeted advertising.

The class action suit was brought earlier this week in the U.S. District Court for the northern district of California by Matthew Campbell from Arkansas and Michael Hurley from Oregon on behalf of 166 million Facebook users in the country. Plaintiffs allege that Facebook has violated California privacy laws and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

In a terse statement, Facebook said: "We believe the allegations are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously."

In the suit, the plaintiffs use as evidence research from High-Tech Bridge, a Swiss security firm that concludes Facebook mines private messages by scanning links and other content that is then sold to advertisers and data aggregators.

The plaintiffs are asking for an injunction against these practices and damages of $100 a day for each day of violation or $10,000 for each user, whichever is greater. 

Facebook's privacy woes are well documented. In September, the social network settled a class action lawsuit for $20 million for sharing users' likes in sponsored stories without their permission. Facebook is under a 2011 consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission.

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