A lawsuit has been filed against Twitter, accusing the company of eavesdropping on direct messages being sent by users through the social network.
According to the lawsuit, Twitter is "systematically intercepting, reading and altering" private messages, with no consent or knowledge of its users.
A cited example is that Twitter scans direct messages to replace any contained URLs with custom hyperlinks that it creates. The lawsuit claims that Twitter does this to have the social media service as the traffic source, leading to better rates for advertising.
While URL link shorteners were convenient for Twitter users to fit otherwise long URLs into 14-character messages before the limit was lifted, the lawsuit claims that the service is in violation of California's privacy law and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Twitter, however, said in an e-mailed statement that the company finds the claims as meritless, with the intention to challenge the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, which is seeking for a class action status, is similar to another lawsuit that was filed against the Gmail service of Google for its practice of scanning the e-mails of its users to be able to serve advertisements to users.
However, Ryan Calo, a law professor from the University of Washington, told USA Today that the lawsuit against Twitter will not be successful due to a couple of reasons. First, the judge may decide that an algorithm which changes links or scans for keywords is similar to automated programs that carry out tasks such as spellchecks, which is not objectionable to users. Second, the plaintiffs may not be able to show any harm being done which a court would rectify.
The lawsuit, brought by Texas resident Wilford Raney, was filed by the Edelson PC law firm, which specializes in filing lawsuits against tech companies for alleged violations on user privacy. The lawsuit seeks to represent two different classes, with the first class being Twitter users in the United States that sent direct messages and the second class being users that received direct messages. The damages that the lawsuit is seeking are equivalent to as high as $100 per day for every user that has had their privacy compromised by Twitter's alleged eavesdropping.