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January 03, 2014

Facebook Faces Class-action Lawsuit for Data Mining

Online security is a saga that never seems to end – we worry about it, we take measures to protect our information and a new story breaks about further implications to our privacy and data. The newest installment to this modern-day movie came last Monday, with a class-action lawsuit filed against Facebook for mining data for profit.

Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley filed a lawsuit against Facebook last Monday with the Northern District of California, accusing the social media giant of violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and accumulating user information. The suit claims that Facebook intercepts, without consent, private messages sent via the platform, and mines that data for its own profit. In particular, messages containing URLs have been susceptible to collection for data mining and user profiling.

Campbell and Hurley are bringing suit on behalf of all US users who have sent or received private messages via Facebook containing URLs. They seek an injunction to stop the practice, as well as statutory damages including $100 for every day Facebook violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, per member of the class. Clearly this is no small issue to the plaintiffs or the American people; as Campbell and Hurley said in a statement, “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.”

It’s not the first time Facebook has heard accusations like this – ever since the mid-2013 NSA controversy sparked by Edward Snowden, the company has come under fire for misleading privacy practices. In this case, Facebook is maintaining that the allegations are “without merit,” and that it is prepared to defend itself against them.

Whether that defense will stand remains to be seen, as the suit is currently seeking class-action status. Let’s hope that our online security concerns can be put to rest, and in the meantime, let’s all be a little more careful what we say.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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