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Federal Judge ‘Likes’ Class’s|Privacy Claim Against Facebook

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A class action lawsuit that claims Facebook illegally scans messages for targeted advertising purposes will proceed in Federal Court, despite Facebook's claims that it's stopped doing it -- mostly.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton on Tuesday granted in part and denied in part Facebook's motion to dismiss.

Lead plaintiff Matthew Campbell sued Facebook in December 2013. He claims that the company treats web links in private messages as "likes," and that if there's a link in a message, the linked website received an additional "like" on its counter.

Facebook uses this data to deliver targeted advertising to users, the class claims.

At a motion hearing in October Facebook claimed it had stopped updating the link counter using messages in 2012, but still conducts some analysis of users' messages to protect against viruses and filter out spam.

But plaintiffs say that messages are supposed to relay private communications, and that Facebook's scanning them violates the federal Wiretap Act and California's Invasion of Privacy Act and its Business and Professions Code.

Judge Hamilton wrote: "The fact that Facebook can configure its code to scan message content for certain purposes, but not for others, leaves open the possibility that the challenged practice constitutes a separate 'interception.'"

She denied Facebook's motion to dismiss the Wiretap Act claim, saying that users have not impliedly consented to interception of their messages.

Hamilton also denied part of Facebook's motion to dismiss claims under the state privacy act, as well as its request to strike the plaintiffs' prayer for injunctive relief.

"Facebook moves to strike plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief, arguing that it ceased the challenged practice 'nearly two years ago,'" Hamilton wrote. "However, plaintiffs have adequately alleged that there is a 'sufficient likelihood' that Facebook could resume the practice, so the court denies Facebook's request to strike the prayer for injunctive relief at this time."

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