Facebook Caught Scanning Private Messages For Increasing Likes On Webpages

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Short Bytes: A lawsuit was filed against Facebook for their actions involving scanning of private messages to power their social media plugins and improve advertisement recommendations. The district court has ruled out any monetary damages that may have occurred to the plaintiffs due to the privacy breach. The plaintiffs have been asked to submit an amended complaint by June 8, 2016.

The blue network isn’t a new name in the line of the companies involved in the act of privacy breach against their users. Peeping into private messages is like a daily routine for them and the world knows about it very well. Yet, we can’t stop our addicted Facebook-slave minds to write personal information in our chat conversations even after knowing that the Facebook guys would be reading it over a cup of coffee sometime.

But Facebook has to pay for the sins it commits no matter how big they become or how connected they make the world. A lawsuit filed by Matthew Campbell (and others) has illuminated the act of Facebook scanning private messages. The class-action lawsuit was kept upfront the Northern District Court of California.

According to the Plaintiffs, Facebook scans users’ private messages to power up its “social plugin”. The “like” button available on various web pages which depict the Facebook popularity of those web pages. Facebook reads the private messages and scans for web page links in those messages. It treats a link found in the message as one like and updates the like counter respectively. Facebook also uses those links to know probable interests of the users and display advertisements accordingly.

By doing so, Facebook violates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and California Invasion of Privacy Act. Though, the scanning also helps them to fight malware and put a ban on child pornography. But there are other intentions that they want to satisfy, basically, for the hard cash they want to earn.

As per Facebook’s defence, the data is stored in bulk form and proper anonymity is achieved during the process. The research done by the Plaintiffs points towards a database “Titan” maintained by Facebook to store private messages stuffed with links. However, Facebook has denounced any allegation like this by saying that it was a matter of the past and was done in a lawful manner. No one knows, if their link-capturing program is still active behind the screen.

The court has ruled out the possibility of any personal damage occurred due to the privacy breach. Thus, no compensation will be granted to the Plaintiffs in this case. However, the court may ask Facebook to stop scanning of private messages in the coming future.

The company no longer pumps up like counts by their link-capturing method but they do collect private message data in some form. The Plaintiffs have until June 8, 2016, to file an amended complaint about the lawsuit for which a Case Management Conference will be held on June 30, 2016. The case was originally filed in 2012.

Read the case document here.

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Aditya Tiwari

Aditya Tiwari

Aditya likes to cover topics related to Microsoft, Windows 10, Apple Watch, and interesting gadgets. But when he is not working, you can find him binge-watching random videos on YouTube (after he has wasted an hour on Netflix trying to find a good show). Reach out at [email protected]
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