Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) will have to face a class action lawsuit for alleged violation of users’ privacy. Facebook users Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley filed a lawsuit in 2013, alleging that social network scanned the content of private messages and used the findings for delivering targeted advertising. The complaint alleged breach of the federal and state privacy laws as the social network didn’t seek any consent and scan users’ private Facebook messages.
Facebook tried to defend its position, saying that it didn’t breach any laws, and its act was protected under an exception in the “Electronic Communications Privacy Act.”
U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland recently disapproved Facebook’s plea to dismiss the lawsuit on the premise that the social network failed to offer explanation of how the practice fell under the company’s ordinary course of business.
If the lawsuit turns against Facebook, it may require paying up as much as $10,000 in damages per user who might have received links via the social network’s private message system in the past two years. Such a judgment could be detrimental to Facebook’s balance sheet given its billion-plus user base and even few millions of them prove eligible to receive damages.
Judge Hamilton expressed that Zuckerberg and Co.’s unwillingness to disclose the details of their targeted advertising practice limits the court from being able to decide whether the specific practice under consideration is ordinary.
When it comes to user privacy on online platforms, Google was no different when it attracted legal scrutiny for message scanning of students and other school staff using Google Apps for Education suite. However, in April 2014, director of Google for Education, Bram Bout posted on the blog that Google has permanently removed all ads scanning and is not collecting or using student data for advertising purposes.