Could Class Action Suit Ruin Facebook?

For all the headlines about the National Security Agency spying on Internet users, the bright light is now turning to Facebook. Two Facebookers this week filed suit against the social networking behemoth, claiming their private messages are being read.

"Contrary to its representation, 'private' Facebook messages are systematically intercepted by the company in an effort to learn the contents of the users' communications," according to the suit, which was filed in California district court.

Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley, the plaintiffs in the case, allege that Facebook is scanning messages and links included in those messages to search for information that would allow them EUto profile the message-senderEUs web activity.EU

Seeking Class Action

"Representing to users that the content of Facebook messages is 'private' creates an especially profitable opportunity for Facebook, because users who believe they are communicating on a service free from surveillance are likely to reveal facts about themselves that they would not reveal had they known the content was being monitored," the suit said. "Thus, Facebook has positioned itself to acquire pieces of the users' profiles that are likely unavailable to other data aggregators.EU

The plaintiffs are seeking a court order to certify the case as a class action suit. If they get the order, it could potentially involve as many as 166 million people who have sent or received private messages that included links over the past two years. The plaintiffs are also asking the court to ban Facebook from continuing to intercept private social media messages and are seeking as much as $10,000 in damages for each affected user.

Facebook issued a public statement saying, EUWe continue to believe the allegations in the lawsuit have no merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously.EU

Billions in Potential Liability

We asked Greg Sterling, a principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, for his take on the...

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