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Facebook Privacy The Courts

Facebook Being Sued Over Mining of Private Messages 170

Posted by Soulskill
from the mine-your-own-business dept.
Kimomaru writes "Two Facebook users are trying to start a class action lawsuit against Facebook for allegedly mining information from private messages with the intention of selling is to advertisers (full complaint PDF). It's not the first time a social medial player has been in the press over privacy or security issues. But when the services are provided free of charge, does the user have a realistic expectation of privacy or security, especially when it's understood that the user's data is being mined for advertising? If not, should social media networks be allowed to use words like 'private' (as in private messaging) or 'security' to describe their services?"
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Facebook Being Sued Over Mining of Private Messages

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  • Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Friday January 03, 2014 @02:55PM (#45859059)

    It's Facebook. Is it reasonable to expect complete privacy with any part of it? Email at least has some expectation of privacy, but even there, the big providers scan your email for targeted advertising.

    I really don't think a reasonable person expects a lot of "privacy" at Facebook, certainly "private messages" are only private from other users, not Facebook bots...

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday January 03, 2014 @03:08PM (#45859227) Homepage

    The complaint makes a key point. Facebook lied in their privacy policy. See page 19 of the complaint, "Facebook Fails to Disclose That Its Private Message Processes Read, Acquire, and Use Private Message Content, in Violation of Its Express Agreements With Facebook Users." This looks like a clear ECPA violation.

  • It's worth noting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msobkow (48369) on Friday January 03, 2014 @03:09PM (#45859235) Homepage Journal

    It's worth noting that Facebook calls them "Messages", not "Private Messages" as some forums do.

  • Re:Really? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2014 @03:10PM (#45859253)

    Well, that's the point - it's not just Facebook bots that are privy to the information but advertisers as well. Is it still "privacy" then?

    You're mistaken, and this lawsuit is most likely going to be dismissed because the plaintiff has a factual misunderstanding of what they do.

    FB doesn't actually give contents of anything of yours to anybody else. Here's how they offer to advertisers: You basically "tag" your ad with various key words to target or avoid, these can be formally declared items (such as setting your hometown, date of birth, etc.) or simply key words scraped out of comments, chat, wall posts, etc.
    They can get aggregate stats on how many people were shown the ad, which key words were triggered off of them, but nothing specific about any of the actual viewers.

    The only way they can actually get data from ad viewers is through "side channel" methods, which require you to either click-through the ad to their site or actually use a coupon they present.
    Note that I'm not defending any of their practices, but if you're going to get Mad and Do Something about it, you ought to at least get the facts straight first.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 03, 2014 @03:11PM (#45859259) Homepage Journal

    It's Facebook. Is it reasonable to expect complete privacy with any part of it? Email at least has some expectation of privacy, but even there, the big providers scan your email for targeted advertising.

    I really don't think a reasonable person expects a lot of "privacy" at Facebook, certainly "private messages" are only private from other users, not Facebook bots...

    If a message is stated as "Private" it should be treated entirely as private. I think that implication would hold up in any court as a reasonable expectation, regardless of how Facebook mines Public or Shared content. Dangerous precedent otherwise.

  • Re:Really? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 03, 2014 @03:31PM (#45859497)

    This is never the correct response, ever. The "you are free to walk away" assumes you can somehow mitigate the need to occasionally talk to retards who are determined to use facebook, privacy and logic be damned.

    You can take yourself outside of the stupid system, but you can't take the stupid out of the system.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:22PM (#45861649) Homepage Journal

    I am pretty sure that google will begin just what you describe if Facebook wins this lawsuit.

    I'm quite sure that Google will not, and I work for Google (though I don't speak for Google -- these are my own opinions, not any kind of official statement). Two reasons:

    First, though it's contrary to the /. groupthink, because Google actually cares quite a lot about user privacy. Even if the people who work for Google didn't care themselves (and, they generally do, a lot), there's the FTC consent decree that means Google has to step very, very cautiously around privacy issues. Of course, Google does collect a lot of information about users, to target ads as well as (increasingly) to deliver personalized services like Google Now, but that data stays within Google, and Google guards it carefully.

    Second, because even if privacy weren't a concern, Google is quite certain that advertisers wouldn't be able to utilize/monetize user data nearly as effectively as Google can. Google believes that its algorithmic, big-data approach can target advertising more effectively than the advertisers could do, and therefore Google can make more money by providing interested eyeballs to advertisers than it could make by providing data to advertisers so they could go get their own eyeballs. Add to that the high probability that the advertisers would act obnoxiously to Google's users in attempting to advertise to them, thereby damaging Google.

    IMO, Google would be stupid to sell user data, and (also IMNSHO) Google is not stupid.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday January 03, 2014 @07:25PM (#45861671) Homepage Journal
    Google doesn't do the same thing. If you see ads about wedding stuff after getting e-mails about weddings, it's because the ads are being served by Google. Google doesn't sell your data, but Google does use your data to decide what ads might be useful to you. You probably saw those ads all over the web, not just on Google properties, but that's because sites all over the web display Google ads. But Google serves the ads, and the sites don't know what's being served, and the advertisers don't know who it's being served to.
  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Saturday January 04, 2014 @08:49AM (#45864489) Homepage Journal

    It is by far not the only correct response.

    Laws like in the EU that forbid selling of private information without prior consent is another possibility.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday January 04, 2014 @11:03AM (#45865053) Homepage Journal

    YouTube, trying very hard to force users to use their real name

    YouTube in no way requires you to use your real name. You're free to create a "page", which is an identity which can be named anything you like (within some policies, I suppose), and you can use that as your YouTube identity. Completely pseudonymous. You can even create several if you like to use sockpuppets; toggling between identity takes two clicks.

    trying to ram Google-Plus down everyone's throat

    Which is something you don't like, I get that, but it doesn't affect privacy.

    These services give out masses of information

    No, they don't. They don't give any information that you don't choose to share, to anyone (other than Google).

    you have to turn off the annoyances of things like gmails 'available' for chat

    Only for people you've invited to be able to see that you're available. Prior to the new Hangouts chat system, you had to specifically invite every individual (or accept an invitation from them). With the new system, you have to circle them before they can see you.

    I can't even comment on my own videos because of where I told them to shove google-plus.

    I don't get this concern. You post comments publicly on YouTube -- publicly! -- for the whole world to see and read, and then feel it's an invasion of privacy that they also show up at a different URL? Actually, they show up at several different URLs, because the comments get indexed for search, too, and not just by Google. You can find your YouTube comments with Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc. Public is public, especially on the Internet.

    Now, if you don't want stuff to be available all over the web, the G+/YouTube integration actually gives you more control, because you can restrict your comments to being visible only to your circles, or to specific people that you identify. That integration increased YouTube users' privacy options.

    But regardless of all that, if you don't want to use G+, don't use it. Just use YouTube's new comment system and ignore G+. And use a pseudonym if you prefer. Or use a different service if you dislike Google's stuff. Google makes it easy to take your data and walk away, and to tell Google to delete everything it knows about you.

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