SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge partially certified a class who claim Facebook illegally mines private messages for advertising purposes, and instructed the class to revise its model for damages.
Lead plaintiff Matthew Campbell’s lawsuit, which could have major implications for privacy in Internet communications, is the first to claim that Facebook users have property rights in their Facebook messages.
Campbell sued Facebook in 2013, claiming it misrepresented the privacy of its messages. He said it scanned messages from one user to another in search of URLs to third-party sites, and used the information to drive up the number of Facebook “likes” on third-party pages.
At a hearing in March, Campbell sought certification of a class of “all natural-person Facebook users located within the United States who have sent, or received from a Facebook user, private messages that included URLs in their content (and from which Facebook generated a URL attachment), from within two years before the filing of this action up through the date of the certification of the class.”
Chief U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton on Wednesday found that the proposed class definition met most statutory requirements for certification, except for predominance involving damages.
“The decision about whether or not to reduce an excessive damages award would necessarily involve individual questions about whether each specific class member’s award was excessive,” Hamilton wrote in the 30-page order.
“For that reason, the court finds that individual issues regarding damages would predominate over common ones, regardless of whether plaintiffs seek statutory damages or damages based on Facebook’s profits.”
Hamilton gave the plaintiffs until June 8 to file an amended complaint.
Neither the plaintiffs’ lead counsel nor Facebook immediately responded to an email requesting comment Thursday afternoon.
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