There Are Few Things More Precious Than Privacy — Facebook Cannot Get Privacy Class Action Tossed Out on Motion to Dismiss

In an attempt to reign in large companies taking advantage of new technology in this way, legislators recently passed the Electronic Communications Act was, which makes it illegal for companies to share users’ information in certain situations.

Although taking advantage of information shared on the Internet is a common practice and many people are aware of it, few people expect to have their private messages scanned for the same purpose. Nevertheless emails and other forms of messages have allegedly been violated.

According to a recent class action lawsuit, Facebook has allegedly scanned users’ private messages to check for any URLs contained in the messages. When a URL was found, Facebook allegedly would count the number of links included in those messages and would add them to a total of “likes” for those sites. That information would then be used to profile the users so that advertisements could be specifically targeted to them.

Facebook claims it stopped the scanning policy back in October of 2012, but the class action lawsuit (which was filed a year ago) is seeking to represent everyone “located within the United States who [has] sent or received private messages where such message included URLs in the content, from within two years before the filing of this action up through and including the date of the judgment in this case.”

Facebook sought to have the lawsuit dismissed and it succeeded in part. The district court agreed to drop some of the lesser claims, but the court refused to dismiss the lawsuit’s central claim that Facebook violated the privacy of its users. Judge Phyllis Hamilton, of the district court of Oakland, CA, has recently ruled that the class of plaintiffs will be permitted to pursue their claims against Facebook in court.

Facebook argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed based on an exception included in the Electronics Communication Privacy Act. However, the exception to which Facebook points only applies to companies whose ordinary course of business includes the need to scan messages and posts on the Internet. The social media company also pointed out that its terms and conditions stated that users’ information submitted on the site might be used for data analysis.

Judge Hamilton refused to dismiss the claims, saying that Facebook had not “offered a sufficient explanation of how the challenged practice falls within the ordinary course of its business.” She also said Facebook’s terms and conditions did not specifically disclose to users the possibility that scanning would be extended to private messages. Users might reasonably expect that information shared on their Facebook wall would be subject to scans, as their walls are semi-public to begin with. Private messages, on the other hand, come with the implication that they remain private between the sender and the receiver.

Our Chicago class action lawyers near Aurora and Willowbrook bring class action, privacy law and individual consumer rights lawsuits. We bring suit for many types of class action lawsuits for consumer fraud issues and for unpaid overtime, junk fax, junk text messages, privacy rights violations, property damages due to pollution, false advertising and other claims. Super Lawyers has selected our Kane, DuPage and Cook County class action lawyers as among the top 5% in Illinois. Our Chicago class action attorneys only collect our fees if we win or settle your case. For a free consultation call us at our toll free number 630-333-0333 or contact us on the web by clicking here.

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