Facebook faces class action suit in Canada over interception of private messages

The social networking company is alleged to have intercepted private messages to harvest data

Facebook is facing a class-action lawsuit in Canada over its alleged interception of private message of users of the social network.

The lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court alleges that URLs (uniform resource locators) in the private messages were "harvested" by Facebook in violation of its users' privacy, without their knowledge or consent, Rochon Genova, the law firm representing the users, said Wednesday.

Facebook did not disclose to users that their private messages would be intercepted and scanned, and the contents of those messages treated as "likes" for third-party sites through the social plug-in function, according to the law firm.

The social networking company was not immediately available for comment.

The company is already facing similar lawsuits in the U.S. over its alleged interception and scanning of the content of private messages.

Citing research by Swiss information security firm High-Tech Bridge and others, Facebook users Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley filed in December a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of all Facebook users in the U.S. who have sent or received private Facebook messages that included a URL in the content of the message.

High-Tech Bridge wrote in August last year that Facebook was one of the Web services it tested that was caught scanning URLs despite such activity remaining undisclosed to the user, according to the complaint.

Facebook mined user data and profited by sharing the data with third parties such as advertisers, marketers, and other data aggregators, despite having made representations that "reflect the promise that only the sender and the recipient or recipients will be privy to the private message's content, to the exclusion of any other party, including Facebook," the complaint added.

The lawsuit is proposed to be consolidated with a similar one filed in January in the Northern District of California by another Facebook user David Shadpour. If there was a URL in the private message, Facebook searched the website identified in the URL for purposes such as data mining and user profiling, according to Shadpour's complaint.

Facebook quietly shelved the practice, without acknowledging it, in October 2012 after a report in the Wall Street Journal exposed the scanning, according to Rochon Genova.

The class-action lawsuit in Ontario includes all Canadian resident Facebook users who sent or received private messages containing URLs up to October 2012. There are more than 18 million Facebook users in Canada and around three-quarters of them log on to Facebook at least once a day, according to Rochon Genova.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacyinternetFacebooklegalsocial networkingInternet-based applications and services

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?