Facebook has agreed to stop mining private messages to generate "likes" and targeted advertising without informing its users, settling a class action lawsuit filed in 2013.
The suit claimed that Facebook routinely scanned private messages, watching for URLs that could be used to generate ads and "likes," alleging that the practice violated the federal Wiretap Act and California's Invasion of Privacy Act.
The settlement will not exactly hit Facebook where it hurts. The two named plaintiffs in the case will get $5,000 each and their lawyers will split $3.23 million, but the millions of other consumers who were spied on will get nothing.
That's in line with previous settlements of similar cases with Google and Yahoo, which each agreed to modify their email-scanning practices and provide more notice to consumers but paid no damages.
The Facebook case began in 2012 when security researcher Ashkan Soltani reported that Facebook counts in-message links as "likes." Besides spying on message transmissions users thought were private, the practice left lots of room for error -- a consumer could send a URL to a friend as an example of a really stupid idea and it would still be counted as a "like."
As part of the settlement, which must still be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton, Facebook will amend its practices and provide more notification to consumers, something it says it is already doing. She has scheduled a hearing for April 12.
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