By Jessica Guynn
2:56 PM PST, January 2, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook is being sued over allegations it monitors private messages on the social network to surreptitiously gather even more information on its users and share the data with marketers.
According to the lawsuit filed in federal court in San Jose, Facebook scans the contents of private messages including links to other websites "to improve its marketing algorithms and increase its ability to profit from data about Facebook users."
The links to third-party websites are interpreted as a "like" of that website and contribute to a profile of the sender's activity on the Web for the purpose of targeting advertising, the lawsuit alleges.
Jackie Rooney, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said the allegations are “without merit.”
"We will defend ourselves vigorously," she said in an emailed statement.
The two plaintiffs are looking to certify the case as a class action on behalf of all Facebook users who have sent or received a private message in the past two years that included Web links.
Hacker News brought to light the practice of recording links in private messages as "likes" in 2012. At the time some questioned whether users understood that links in their messages were being scanned.
Google is one of the Silicon Valley companies targeted by similar lawsuits. A federal judge in San Jose ruled in September that Google must face a lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of illegally opening and reading the contents of email sent through its Gmail service in violation of federal wiretapping statutes.
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