Facebook makes money by running ads, and those ads are based on what users want to see. The more that Facebook can learn about what its users are interested in, the more accurately they can display those ads, which can help with revenue.
To increase this ability, Facebook allegedly violated users’ rights to privacy by going through the contents of their private messages on the site. The data was intercepted and scanned, even though those messages — unlike many Timeline posts — are not visible to most users.
It is worth noting that Facebook has now stopped scanning the data and using it. They were caught in 2012, and the Wall Street Journal ran an article about the process. Facebook quietly put it to an end without apologizing to those who used the site or admitting what had been done.
Facebook does have a Data Use Policy, but that policy indicated that the private messages were between just the parities that were included in the thread, never telling users that the company itself could be scanning or reading those messages. The goal of the class action lawsuit is to make sure that the company is held responsible for its actions, rather than being allowed to use all of the data that is has collected in any way that it pleases.
It’s also worth noting that people may never have publicly shared the information they put in private messages, which Facebook then harvested for financial gain.
Did you use Facebook prior to 2012? If so, it’s important to know that your rights may have been violated, but there are legal steps you can take in Ontario.
Source: Rochon Genova, “Facebook Privacy,” accessed July 22, 2016