The practice violates California state law, class action alleges.
Facebook could be reading your private messages to help advertisers figure out what you want to buy, so you know there are definitely going to be users (and lawyers) who aren't happy about that.
The company was hit this week with a class action lawsuit alleging it is scanning private messages for links and passing the information along to advertisers, in violation of California's Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The suit, brought by Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley on behalf of all Facebook users, claims that the sneaky practice is extremely lucrative:
Representing to users that the content of Facebook messages is “private” creates an especially profitable opportunity for Facebook, because users who believe they are communicating on a service free from surveillance are likely to reveal facts about themselves that they would not reveal had they known the content was being monitored. Thus, Facebook has positioned itself to acquire pieces of the users’ profiles that are likely unavailable to other data aggregators.
The suit alleges that Facebook uses private messages to "mine user data and profit from those data by sharing them with third parties – namely, advertisers, marketers, and other data aggregators."