October 3, 2022

Facebook’s parent company Meta has announced that it is suing the US subsidiary of a Chinese technology company, accusing it of providing data scraping services on Facebook and Instagram.

The social networking giant also revealed that it is suing an individual the company alleges set up automated Instagram accounts to collect data from around 350,000 Instagram users.

Both cases were filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

Facebook vs skimmers

While Meta and other Internet companies are no stranger to fighting web scraping — a practice that involves using automated tools to collect data en masse from websites — the timing of these latter cases is particularly notable. It comes less than three months after a US court reaffirmed an earlier ruling that web stripping is legal, the culmination of a long-running legal battle between Microsoft-owned LinkedIn and data science firm Hiq Labs, which has pulled personal information from LinkedIn. To help its clients anticipate staff attrition.

While many different industry fields celebrated the result, including archivists, researchers, and journalists who rely on scraping publicly available data, it also dealt a serious blow to legitimate privacy and security concerns about How People’s data can be harnessed without their permission. In this particular case, the court ruled that scraping publicly available information was not inconsistent with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFA), a cybersecurity law governing computer piracy in the United States

Not to be deterred, Meta is now seeking similar legal action against a company called Octopus Data, which is the US branch of a “Chinese national high-tech enterprise” – the parent company. website It says this is called “Shenzhen Vision Information Technology Co.” It claims to have launched its flagship product in 2016.

In addition, Meta confirmed that it is filing a lawsuit against a person residing in Turkey by the name of Ekrem Ateş, who allegedly posted fake Instagram data on his websites, or the so-called “clone sites. “

Rather than targeting CFAA-sponsored entities, Meta is pursuing matters through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which is more concerned with copyright and intellectual property (IP) violations than piracy. In connection with this, the Meta file in its court filing specifically refers to Section 3 of its Terms of Service, which condition:

You own the intellectual property rights (things like copyrights or trademarks) in any content you create and share on Facebook and other Meta Products that you use. Nothing in these Terms shall take away your rights to your Content. You are free to share your content with anyone else, wherever you want.

Elsewhere, Facebook terms too condition which – which:

You will not collect users’ content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as collecting bots, bots, spiders, or scrapers) without our prior permission.

According to Meta, Octopus charges its customers to access a software product called Octoparse to launch scrape attacks, or they can also pay Octopus to scrap websites directly. For it to work, customers must grant access to their accounts, which allows the software to collect data that would normally only be available to logged-in users, including Facebook friends, email addresses, birthdays, phone numbers, and Instagram followers, among others. Other sharing data.

It’s also worth noting that Octoparse isn’t limited to Meta features, either, with services offered across several sites including Twitter, YouTube, Amazon, LinkedIn, and more.

Jessica Romero, Meta Director of Platform Application and Litigation says, Wrote in a blog post.

These latest cases come shortly after the Meta Mostly he came out victorious From another data collection case it filed about two years ago against an Israeli company called BrandTotal, which filed a browser extension that collects data from Facebook users. The judge in this case sided with Meta in his claim that BrandTotal violated Facebook’s terms of use, while also issuing a brief ruling that BrandTotal violated California’s CFAA or CDAFA (Computer Data Access and Fraud Act) by accessing password-protected pages using fake accounts. users.

Web scraping is as old as the web itself, and it’s not going away any time soon. However, by targeting some of the worst offenders – both at the corporate and individual level – Meta wants to deter others from taking this approach.

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