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Sacnning Private Messages Creates Trouble for Facebook

Facebook's Facing Trial for Scanning Users’ Private Messages for Likes and Profits

According to records, Facebook historically scanned private text messages of its users for identifying links to websites and treated them as Likes. We do understand that Facebook often finds itself in hot water over its breaches of user privacy but this time, the matter is far worse than what we may have assumed.

A lawsuit has already been registered against the social network in a Northern California District Court for violating federal privacy laws. Plaintiffs have challenged Facebook of scanning the content of private messages of its users and if a link to any web page is found in the conversation, the social media giant took it as a “Like” for that page from the user.

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Plaintiffs can file for any further charges or amendment in their existing complaint up to June 8.

Furthermore, Facebook has been accused of using the data to compile profiles of the users and use them to initiate targeted advertising campaigns, according to The Verge.

As per the current certification that specifies injunctive relief, the accusers won’t be receiving any monetary reward no matter what the outcome of this lawsuit. On the other hand, if found guilty, Facebook would have to stop this practice.

A spokesperson for Facebook told Cnet, this practice was stopped a long time back by the social network and that:

“We agree with the court’s finding that the alleged conduct did not result in any actual harm and that it would be inappropriate to allow plaintiffs to seek damages on a class-wide basis. The remaining claims relate to historical practices that are entirely lawful, and we look forward to resolving those claims on the merits.”

It was recognized by Plaintiffs Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley that the organization usually scans the URLs contained in the private messages for several purposes such as anti-malware protection and industry-specific searches to identify pedophiles or child pornography. However, this is just an excuse as the actual purpose of scanning these messages is to generate Likes. It must be noted that scanning and storing URL data in a searchable format breaches the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

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The plaintiffs’ appeal for technical analysis revealed that Facebook stores all the URL related messages in Titan, which is a database of private messages and displays the time and date on which the messages were sent as well as the IDs of the sender and recipient.

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