A recent lawsuit filed in California federal court this week is alleging that Facebook is mining the private messages of its users for information that can be useful to advertisers. The allegations suggest that links sent in these messages are being secretly shared with advertisers in order to help them better target their advertising dollars. The Plaintiffs are seeking damages in the amounts of $100 per day or a lump sum payment of $10,000 for each affected user. In an email sent to Computerworld yesterday, Facebook has denied any wrongdoing.
"We believe the allegations are without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously."
The inclusion of advertising on Facebook is still in its early years. The decision to place web ads on the world’s most popular social media platform has led to both criticism and debate from Wall Street analysts, investors and the Facebook community alike. InvestorPlace is reporting that stock prices had dropped 5% in the week preceding the lawsuit, and these recent allegations are “not bound to do FB any favors”.
Of course, Facebook is taking the first hit. Many privacy law experts believe that other lawsuits will follow for many of the other top social media sites. The Huffington Post notes that even Google is facing a similar class action suit over its Gmail services. The suit claims Google’s practices are in direct violation of US wiretapping laws.
Not surprisingly, Facebook streams are buzzing about the lawsuit. The news is spreading like wildfire across the feeds, meeting with a wide variety of opinions and emotions ranging from shock to hilarity. One Facebook user is even noted as posting, “Facebook is going to be very disappointed in reading my private messages. They are wasting their time”. But DigitalTrends states that if the allegations are indeed true, then Facebook is “straight-up villainous”.