Facebook Messages Mined For Content, Sold To Advertisers, Says New Lawsuit

Ever wondered how the advertisers that target you on Facebook track you down? Well, according to two plaintiffs in a new lawsuit filed against Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and co are sifting through your private messages and selling its contents to advertisers. Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley of California are suing Zuckerberg's social-media giant because, according to their class action complaint, "private" Facebook messages aren't private at all.

Let's say you send a friend a link to, say, Walmart. Then, bam, Walmart's got your Facebook name on its "targeted" list. An advertiser on Facebok can only send ads to a user if that person has some connection to the brand — so if you "like" Lorde on Facebook or have publicly posted Saturday Night Live videos, those brands are free to advertise specifically to you.

But it goes further than that: if you send your friend a "link," even over private message, Facebook can and will mine through your messages to find out what you're sharing, and give those advertisers the permission to target you.

The filing reads:

Facebook never intended to provide this level of confidentiality. Instead, Facebook mines any and all transmissions… in order to gather any and all morsels of information it can about its users.

About 18 months ago, Facebook completely revamped their privacy policy in an effort to be more "transparent" with its users. The company described how they collect information from the majority of user interactions, which are then aggregated and shared with third parties, including data brokers and advertisers.

At the time, Facebook also noted they’re able to share anything that people ever made public over Facebook, like apps, games, or partner websites. Removing or deleting that information from Facebook would not remove it from those partner databases.

The plaintiffs in the case are asking for more than $100 for each day of violation or $10,000 per class member of the lawsuit. In addition, they also want $5,000 per class member in statutory damages or three times the amount of actual damages, whichever adds up to a higher sum.

"We believe the allegations are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously," a Facebook spokesperson told CNET.