Lawsuit alleges social network sold private message data
Two Facebook users are attempting to start a class action lawsuit against the social network, saying they believe private messages were scanned and shared with advertisers.
Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley are seeking either $100 for every day their privacy was supposedly violated, or a lump sum of $10,000 each for affected users.
Their central claim is that when a link is shared via a private message, Facebook makes a note of this and shares it with marketers who will then target ads accordingly.
Mr Campbell and Mr Hurley suggest that users believing they are communicating over a private channel might reveal information they would not share in a public forum. Their claim is that access to this data gives Facebook knowledge that would not normally be accessible to data aggregators.
A Facebook spokesman responded: "We believe the allegations are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously."
Study suggests young people are turning their back on Facebook
It has not been the happiest start to 2014 for Facebook, with a University College London study suggesting the site is "basically dead and buried" among 16-18 year olds.
Headed by Professor Daniel Miller, early reports suggested the research revealed a trend of youngsters backing away from Facebook in favour of alternatives such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat, which has already been embroiled in its own data crisis this week.
The main reason given for this was the presence of parents on Facebook, with young people supposedly keen to escape the attention of mum and dad.
However, further investigation revealed this claim to be based only on a sample of 2,000 schoolchildren in North London. Professor Miller has since clarified that the research is as yet incomplete and the full report will be much more detailed.
Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "It's far too early to tell if this case against Facebook has any merit, but it certainly hasn't been the most comfortable start to the year and you can bet it will hope to nip this in the bud fairly quickly."