A US District Court in California has ruled that a suit that targets Facebook’s data-harvesting practices can go forward. The company had attempted to have the whole thing tossed out, but only succeeded in having two relatively minor allegations dismissed.
There are three plaintiffs to the suit, all of whom allege that various state and federal statutes were violated by Facebook’s practice of scanning private messages in order to target ads more precisely. They also are upset that the mention of any company in these messages ends up counting as a “like.” Their suit [PDF] alleges that Facebook’s messaging service is “designed to allow users to communicate privately with other users,” and the scanning therefore violates the federal Wiretap Act as well as California’s Invasion of Privacy Act.
Facebook, for its part, wants to see the whole thing thrown out. It claims that it must handle the content of the messages in order to ensure delivery, and therefore it is not possible for it to unlawfully intercept them. Failing that, it suggested that the scans were part of ordinary business practice, and therefore exempt from the law. And, in any case, it stopped the practice back in 2012. For all those reasons, its lawyers argued, the case should not proceed.
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