Facebook files lawsuits against two companies for scraping, harvesting user data

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on October 03, 2020 Published on October 03, 2020

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Facebook has filed a lawsuit in the United States (US) against two companies for data scrapping as part of an international data harvesting operation.

“Scraping is a form of data collection that relies on unauthorized automation for the purpose of extracting data from a website or app,” Facebook explained in a blog post.

The social media giant has sued BrandTotal Ltd., an Israeli-based company, and Unimania Inc., incorporated in Delaware, “that used scraping to engage in an international data harvesting operation.”

“These companies scraped data from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Amazon, in order to sell “marketing intelligence” and other services,” Facebook said.

The companies used a set of browser extensions called “UpVoice” and “Ads Feed” to bypass Facebook’s data scrapping protections and gain access to Facebook user data. The extensions were able to successfully gather data such as a user’s name, user ID, gender, date of birth, relationship status, location information, and other information related to their accounts when people installed the extensions and visited Facebook’s websites.

This data was then stored on a server shared by BrandTotal and Unimania.

Facebook has been cracking down on companies violating its user privacy policies. Earlier in June, the social media major had filed two separate lawsuits against app developers in the US and the United Kingdom (UK) for violating its terms to collect and misuse user data.

Facebook Inc. and Facebook Ireland sued MobiBurn, OakSmart Technologies and its founder Fatih Haltas in the High Court of Justice in the UK after the company failed to comply with its audit request.

It had requested for an audit after reports flagged MobiBurn for collecting user data from Facebook and other social media companies by paying app developers to install a malicious Software Development Kit (SDK) in their apps.

Facebook Inc and Instagram LLC in a separate lawsuit had sued Nikolay Holper in federal court in San Francisco “for operating a fake engagement service known as Nakrutka.”

The tech giant has been under the scanner on multiple occasions for privacy concerns. In the beginning of the year, for instance, it had to settle a class-action lawsuit for violating an Illinois privacy law with more than half a billion dollars in fine, according to a TechCrunch report.

It is also taking other measures to prevent scraping and maintain user privacy.

“We’ve also invested in technical teams and tools that monitor and detect suspicious activity and the use of unauthorised automation for scraping,” Facebook said.

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Published on October 03, 2020
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