Facebook isn’t the only Silicon Valley company facing heat on this issue. Google(GOOG) and Yahoo! (YHOO) each face separate lawsuits filed last year over their practice of scanning the content of e-mails. All three cases are proceeding in the federal district court for the Northern District of California, which covers Silicon Valley.
Confusion over what is private on Facebook has caused controversy for years. The lawsuit filed this week argues that the company is essentially lying to its users by describing certain messages as private, then scanning URLs contained in private messages and using them to build profiles about their Web activity. The complaint charges that this is a particularly pernicious form of snooping, because the things people reveal in private messages are exactly what they don’t want distributed widely.