December 6, 2023

Meta is suing a little-known company with ties to China for exhuming people’s personal data on both Facebook and Instagram.

The legal dispute concerned a California-based company called Octopus Data, which was providing web scraping services as a marketing tool through a site called Octoparse(Opens in a new window). On Tuesday, Meta filed a lawsuit in a US district court to stop the practice, citing users’ privacy.

Octopus designed the software to reveal the data a user can access when logging into their account, including data about their Facebook friends such as email address, phone number, gender and date of birth, as well as Instagram followers and sharing information such as name, user profile URL and location The number of likes and comments for each post Claims(Opens in a new window).

Octoparse is a social media scraping service site.

The Meta lawsuit also states that Octoparse is owned by Shenzhen Vision Information Technology Co. (SVIT), A Provider(Opens in a new window) of “big data products” capable of mining ideas online.

Meta alleges that SVIT may have attempted to conceal its ties to Octoparse after the domain was registered in 2015. “By March 21, 2018, his identity was concealed using privacy guard and information about the registrant is no longer publicly available,” lawsuit(Opens in a new window) Says.

However, Meta said it spotted Kevin Liu, CEO of SVIT, promoting the web scraping service on his Facebook page.

Meta is now asking the US court to intervene, citing how web scraping violates the terms of service for both Facebook and Instagram. The lawsuit also notes that Octoparse was built with various evasion features to prevent companies like Meta from detecting web scavenging. In addition to Facebook and Instagram, customers can also use Octoparse to scrape data from Twitter and YouTube, along with e-commerce sites like Amazon.

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Octopus Data did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the company’s website and YouTube Channel(Opens in a new window) Web scraping has been advertised as a tool to help people better interact with social media.

Meanwhile, Meta is asking a judge to issue an injunction preventing Octopus Data from using Facebook or Instagram again while forcing the company to pay damages. Meta also says it has already shut down the Facebook and Instagram accounts associated with Octoparse.

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