Maggie: Between leaked Snapchat info last week and hacks on Target customers just after the holidays, the news has been packed with online privacy problems. Right, Scott.
Scott: Yeah, Maggie. It seems that privacy issues have no end when it comes to the web. And the latest lawsuit against Facebook involves one kind of interaction online that most assume is private by default.
When you are on Facebook you expect that your friends will see your timeline or photos that you post. That is a given, right? But did you ever think that someone can see your private messages too – the ones sent directly from user to user? Well, a new lawsuit filed last week accuses Facebook of scanning users’ private messages and then handing over what they find to marketers. See, in general, marketers want to know more about you. This way, they can target you with ads that they think you will click on. And that is a big moneymaking business.
The lawsuit has been brought by two California residents on behalf of all Facebook users in the U.S. whose messages might have been scanned. But Facebook is pushing back. In a statement, Facebook says, ‘We believe the allegations in this lawsuit have no merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously.’
But what do Facebook users think?
Lauren Herborn: It is the internet. Anyone can get anything.
Scott: Lauren Herborn says she already assumes nothing posted on Facebook is private. But some disagree, saying that a private message should stay private.
Joe Culation: You are perceiving that it’s only private between you two, and you are not really thinking that the people from Facebook can actually see what you are actually talking to your friend about.
Scott: The lawsuit goes on to say that users are, ‘likely to reveal facts about themselves’ in private messages and Facebook ‘hides the extent of this intrusive behavior from its users.’
Seth Rosenblat: Whether or not the consumer knows that this is happening, I think, is another issue.
Scott: Seth Rosenblat is a senior writer at CNET, a major tech review site, and says even if this kind of monitoring is covered by Facebook’s complex privacy policies, all the recent discussion caused by this and similar lawsuits surrounding electronic privacy could create a new era in social media.
Seth: So it wouldn’t be surprising in the near future to see the next big social networking service be one that is more privacy forward and has privacy built in as a feature from the beginning.
Scott: Private versus public. It won’t be the last time this issue comes up. We will for sure be watching this one.