TORONTO, April 9, 2014 /CNW/ - A class action lawsuit commenced today in
the Ontario Superior Court alleges that Facebook illicitly intercepted
and scanned its users' private messages without their knowledge or
The lawsuit alleges that the URLs (website addresses) in users' private
messages were harvested by Facebook in violation of users' privacy.
Facebook did this in order to inflate its web presence and attract
increased advertising revenue.
The practice was only stopped in October 2012, when an investigation by
security researchers that was published in the Wall Street Journal exposed what Facebook was doing. Facebook did not acknowledge its
actions nor apologize to users, but quietly shelved the practice.
"Facebook intercepted its users' private messages for its own commercial
gain and has never acknowledged or apologized for its behaviour," said
Joel Rochon, partner at Rochon Genova LLP, who is representing the class members. "Social networking sites such
as this need to be held publicly accountable. Surreptitious
surveillance of private communications cannot be tolerated in a
Private messages on Facebook function in a similar way to
email. Facebook's Data Use Policy provides that private messages are
just that - private. None of Facebook's policies disclosed to users
that their private messages would be systematically intercepted and
scanned, and the contents of those messages treated as "Likes" for
other sites via the social plug-in function.
By engaging in this behaviour, Facebook was able to gather more user
data which it could then use to enhance the reach and accuracy of its
targeted advertising - its chief source of revenue. Users were in fact
more likely to share personal information by private message because
they mistakenly believed the messages (unlike public postings) were
The class action lawsuit 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.
The lawsuit alleges that Facebook's actions were a violation of class
members' privacy rights and s. 184(1) of the Criminal Code. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
SOURCE: ROCHON GENOVA LLP
For further information:
Rochon Genova LLP
121 Richmond St. West
Toronto, Ontario, M5H 2K1
Telephone: (416) 363-1867