There was the infamous Beacon program, which told people about their friends' purchases at e-commerce sites. Then came the whole terms-of-service fiasco, in which Facebook found itself dealing with a mini-revolt after the site attempted to claim perpetual ownership over material posted by users.
Now, Wiredreports that the company has been snooping on private messages and censoring ones that contain file-sharing links.
Last month, TorrentFreak reported that Facebook had started blocking all links to torrents from The Pirate Bay -- including links in private messages.
Facebook told Wired it can do so because the site's terms of service allow it to filter illegal content from messages.
But torrent files are not necessarily illegal. In fact a Wired journalist tested Facebook's system by sending a colleague a link to a torrent feed of a book in the public domain -- meaning that no one owns the copyright; Facebook still didn't deliver the message.
Facebook's high-handed tactics also raise serious questions about whether the company is violating a federal wiretapping law. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act generally prohibits email providers from snooping on messages.
To some extent, it's unsettled whether that law applies to messages sent through social networking sites. But Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kevin Bankston says that at least one judge has ruled that the wiretap law does indeed apply to messages hosted on social sites. In the Viacom/Google litigation, U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton ruled Viacom wasn't entitled to view copies of videos that YouTube users had marked "private" because such clips were protected by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Regardless of whether Facebook broke the law, users likely aren't going to be thrilled to learn that the site believes it can censor messages.
If the company wants to be taken seriously as a communications platform, executives are going to have to start giving more consideration to users' privacy rights.