A Federal court has denied Facebook’s motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit, brought on behalf of users whose privacy Facebook breached when it scanned the content of their private Facebook messages to other users, for advertising purposes.
Let us repeat the salient point: Facebook was scanning the content of users’ private messages, and using it for advertising purposes.
According to the lawsuit complaint filed in the case of Campbell, et al, v. Facebook, Inc., “Contrary to its representations, “private” Facebook messages are systematically intercepted by the Company in an effort to learn the contents of the users’ communications. In the course of the last year, independent security researchers discovered that Facebook reviews the contents of its users’ private Facebook messages for purposes unrelated to the facilitation of message transmission. When a user composes a Facebook message and includes a link to a third party website (a “URL”), the Company scans the content of the Facebook message, follows the enclosed link, and searches for information to profile the message-sender’s web activity.”
Facebook countered by saying that this practice was in keeping with “the regular course of business”, and so no harm, no foul. Or, even if harm, no foul.
In an opinion addressing Facebook’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, that fairly skewers Facebook, Judge Phyllis Hamilton observes that Facebook had not offered a sufficient explanation of how the challenged practice falls within the ordinary course of its business, saying that “The court rejects the suggestion that any activity that generates revenue for a company should be considered within the ‘ordinary course of its business.’ At the hearing, Facebook’s counsel suggested that, because the practice is in the service of making money, it must necessarily fall within the ordinary course of business.”
Judge Hamilton rejected that notion, and most of Facebook’s motion to dismiss.
You can read the Judge’s full opinion here.
And, of course, we will keep you updated as the case moves forward.