back to article Facebook bots grope our 'privates', and every wronged user should get $10,000 – lawsuit claims

Two Facebook users have begun a class-action lawsuit that alleges the social network's "private" messaging system is a lie. The pair, Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley, reckon each of the website's estimated 166 million US users should get a payday of up to $10,000 apiece as compensation. The suit, filed in California, …


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  1. chrisp1141

    We keep learning more and more about how our privacy is being violated by facebook and google. We shouldn't tolerate this anymore. If you haven't already done so, you should consider using privacy-based sites like DuckDuckGo, Ravetree, and HushMail. Don't believe the propaganda that "privacy is dead." That's just what they want us to think. We're smarter than that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Class action? 2 Facebook users?

      Everyone should get in on it and quickly.

    2. LarsG

      Come on, this has NSA and GCHQ written all over it!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hushmail

      You may want to double check how safe Hushmail is.

    4. Turtle

      No, no, and no.

      "We keep learning more and more about how our privacy is being violated by facebook and google."

      No. We've known this for a long, long time. Is this latest violation surprising in any way? Unusual in anyway? Unexpected in any way? No, no, and no.

      Regarding the $10,000 per user payout: Assuming that the suit has merit, and that there is a payout, then possibly the money could be overseen by a court-appointed legal guardian or conservator as opposed to being given directly to the user. Because anyone who thought that Facebook's "private" messaging system was actually "private" probably should not be trusted with $10,000 in the first place...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In short:

    Q: Is Facebook doing something which is on the margins of creepiness?

    A: Yes.

    Q: Does this surprise anyone with a pulse?

    A: No.

    Q: Are the plaintiffs fucking batshit insane, man?

    A: Yes.

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: In short:

      Q: Are the plaintiffs fucking batshit insane, man?

      A: Yes.

      Possibly not. Yes, the amount of damages claimed does seem disproportionate but don't forget that the US has a not-so-fine tradition of punitive damages and that jurors do not only decide civil cases but determine the actual compo awarded.

      So sure, it's a money grab, but not an insane one. Of course, if class action status is granted the lawyer's fees will mysteriously increase to cover virtually all of the amount awarded. The headline litigants may get a decent payoff but the rest will be awarded in Starbucks vouchers.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: In short:

      How is this different to GMail?

      Or any mail service that uses a spam filter?

      Skype messages are private, but if they contain a URL, the link is scanned for malware, so that the user won't get infected, if they click on the link.

      What do these all have in common? They are parsed by a machine and not by humans. The only difference is that spam filters and malware filters are there to protect users, the Facebook filter is to help Facebook gain revenue. That is the icky bit, if they were stripping out malicious links, I wouldn't have a problem.

      Oh, wait, I don't trust Facebook an inch, so I don't have an account...

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: In short:

        > How is this different to GMail?

        It's not, and I sure as hell hope it establishes a precedent by which we can sue Google too.

    3. Grikath

      Re: In short:

      "Q: Is Facebook doing something which is on the margins of creepiness?

      A: Yes."

      It's not even remotely on the margins of creepyness, really. I can think of several ways to abuse URLs in a variety of nefarious schemes off the top of my head if FB would not parse hyperlinks embedded in PMs.

      It's actually simply part of the functionality of FB, and quite clearly visible for even the biggest yahoo, since typing in a URL in a PM gives you the usual "thumbnail view" you also get in a public FB entry. Nothing stealthy about it at all. It's right there for anyone to see.

      If FB also uses the same data to (rather sanely) check against a couple of blacklists for obvious reasons and a couple of whitelists of paying customers for the other obvious reasons, including their targeted marketing, I'd simply call it good old-fashioned business sense. Nothing "creepy" about it, and it is way easier to do and less invasive than parsing the entire text of the message for keywords and/or intent. A URL is clear and machine-readable. Text, between languages, alphabets, and dialects?.... Now there's a challenge....

      If you want to keep stuff "private", you would ordinarily start by not using a "free" service of a company which stated mission is to monetise your input through targeted advertising. If you do so and expect "privacy" the third part: "you must be bonkers" applies in full force.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In short:

      Insane? Yes

      Right in claiming? Yes

      I barely use Facebook, But I've sent URLs in messages, and that the company who's url I sent gets notified? now that is a severe invasion of privacy! I wan't my pound of flesh for it!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook will click the dislike button.

    Maybe Facebook will just issue a bunch of new shares with no voting rights for this lawsuit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      dislike button

      But there isn't a dislike button ;-)

      1. Tom 13

        Re: But there isn't a dislike button ;-)

        You know, there might be a monetization angle there....

  4. ratfox

    A fool and his privacy are soon parted

    That said, though I'm not surprised that the data from private messages is thoroughly harvested to select what ads should be shown to the same user, I would be astonished if the target web site of a URL shared privately was notified of which particular user sent or received the message.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Personally I have never trusted Facebook, which is why I have never, and will never, have an account with them.

  6. dssf

    Well, just add junk (live, but cluttering) URLs to the message

    Include porn, baby formula, holy see, monestary, VD/monistat, toothpaste, construction tools, and about a dozen, different-per-message URLs

    All of them would eventually see an uptick in their sites URLs, but very few REAL, meaningful pay-worthy visits after a few weeks of painful parsing. And, if the world gets wind of it, fb's value would go on a hellish, vomit-comet rollercoaster ride. It may regain value, but it will be a dizzying whirlwind for them and their tributary partners. Might wring them dry of sweat and cash. One helluva form of "sweat equity".

    If the courts don't order the "payday packet", the plaintiffs get no joy. Even if the courts DO order the class action to be in place, fb would just stall. So, the only way to make such companies bleed cash is to vicariously loosen a few bolts on their carefully-constructed roller coaster. It won't crash, but it'll be clacky and rickety as fuck, and word will be unstoppable -- well, for a few weeks. Thrillseekers will get back on the ride, and others will just ignore the bad news and remember the bits about effective and lasting repairs made.

    But, imagine if fb and the likes of them had to but up security bonds worth 45% of their fake/purported value, and that special, untainted courts had the power to fast-track the cases and render verdicts/opinions in FIVE DAYS. Boy, that might "stifle innovation and competitiveness", but it would put such companies on notice, too.

    Wait... I hear an i-phone-case/i-pod-case diamond stylus etching my name on two .50 caliber bullets for uttering such ideas in an open forum. Yep, I recognize the latent aroma of aluminum powder accented by diamonds and fresh cooling water. I have to go and take cover....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Anything put on Facebook, ANYTHING AT ALL, regardless of what "privacy" settings you apply it public information. End of discussion.

    So think once, think twice and then delete your Farcebook account.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      @AC Re: Facetards

      By your logic then having the NSA snarf that data, regardless of your privacy settings, is fair game?

      You can't have your cake and eat it too unless you think both private companies and the government have gone too far and you want them both to stop....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC Facetards

        Personally, I'd much rather have Facebook snaffle my data, as (a) I have a choice in whether to avail myself of their service and (b) They cannot send black-clad men with green lights in their goggles for no reason to abseil / rappel / zipline / otherwise utilize high-tensile-strength cable to gain entrance to my domicile, subdue me, and hustle me to an unknown tropical location for enhanced interrogation.

        At least, I don't *think* they can.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC Facetards

        I mean, you should consider it public.

        Posted a picture of yourself shit-faced to a few friends whilst in work uniform? You have ZERO to complain about when your boss fires you for misconduct.

        1) You shouldn't be shit-faced in company uniform; and

        2) You should have considered the post public, because it will be.

  8. James Boag

    Re Big_D

    You have no facebook account,

    Ok we found one for the jury how many more do they need.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Re Big_D

      I have 3, but outside of loaning my password for one of them to a roomate the other day so he could check information for a vendor who had no other online presence, I don't think I've used any of them in over a year. I use to play the Zynga games, but they became too much like work. Games should never, ever be too much like work.

      1. Alan Edwards

        Re: Re Big_D

        > check information for a vendor who had no other online presence

        If a vendor only exists on Facebook, doesn't that automatically add them to the "not even if *they* paid *me*" list?

  9. Flyberius

    I want! I want!

    Why are there so many of these entitled dick heads on the internet. If it really galls them so much they can set up an irc or even, shock horror, send a good old fashioned letter.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I predict a $10 million settlement payoff for the lawyers, and a 10 cent Facebook advertising voucher for each of the victims!

  11. bigtimehustler

    The privacy policy as the claim rightly states is that facebook do not pass private message content on to third parties. They are probably not breaking this, they just parse the link and then tell the matched advertiser that you might be interested in their products, not where they got that info from or the surrounding content of the PM or indeed probably even the exact link.

    So I see this going nowhere at all.

  12. Tom 13

    And you Brits complain about crazy Texas lawsuits?

    I gotta tell you, when it comes to bat shit insane, Texas has nothing on Cali.

  13. Andrew Jones 2

    Can someone explain this - I am having issues understanding where the problem is.

    From the way the story reads, Facebook "notify" a web site that their URL is being shared in a private message, but presumably they don't tell the website WHO shared the URL or WHO is the recipient of the message or WHAT the message is actually about. I can't see how this breaking the privacy of anyone?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They don't just parse the link...

    facebook affiliated servers (or servers that appear to be facebook affiliated) also attempt to open the link as well.

    I could prove it too - i need to scroll real far back in facebook in order to find my post to my friends about it though...

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