Facebook has been sued in California for allegedly scanning usersâ€™ private messages to provide data to marketers, according to IT World. If it loses the case, the social network may be forced to pay up to $10,000 for each affected user or $100 for each day of alleged violation.
“Facebook was one of the Web Services that was caught scanning URLs despite such activity remaining undisclosed to the user,” the complaint reads.
The social network is accused of intercepting messages containing URLs and searching them for “purposes including but not limited to data mining and user profiling.” Facebook has profited from sharing usersâ€™ details with third parties such as advertisers, marketers and other data aggregators, the complaint said.
Evidence is provided by the Swiss firm High-Tech Bridge, which reportedly used a dedicated Web server and generated a secret URL for each of the 50 largest social networks, web services and free email systems it was testing for their â€œrespect of user privacy.â€
The complaint said High-Tech Bridge used the private messaging function of each of the services, embedding a unique URL in each message, and monitored its dedicated web server’s logs for all incoming HTTP requests. This allowed them to see whether any of the services would “click” on the test URLs that had been sent through private messages.
“We believe the allegations are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously,” Facebook told IT World in an emailed statement.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It also asks for an injunction against Facebook’s alleged practices.