When Facebook announced its new communications service yesterday, it had the potential to announce a lucrative new revenue stream as well. After all, Gmail scans the content of emails to optimize the advertising that appears alongside the messages, and Facebook stands to profit mightily from doing the same. However, Facebook has told TechNewsDaily that it will not analyze the content of any message sent over its new service, either for advertising or internal optimization purposes.
Controversies about how much Facebook does or doesn't protect user privacy have dogged the service since its inception. In this case, it seems that Facebook has erred on the side of more privacy, ensuring that all communications remain between the participants of a conversation.
"Advertisers will not have access to the content in messages. Facebook does not share any personally identifiable or private information with advertisers. Facebook Ads are targeted to people based on information they have added to their profiles, such as interests and demographics. Facebook Ads cannot be targeted on private information such as Chat and Messages," said Cyndi Schott, a spokesperson for Facebook. "Facebook doesn’t use message content for anything – it’s a private conversation."
So there you have it. When using Facebook's communication service, your private messages remain private. At least on the Facebook side of things. If you are receiving the email from a Google or Yahoo! service, then chances are the content has been scanned by advertisers.