“Today, Meta is fighting back against a scraping-for-hire service and filed a legal action against Voyager Labs in federal court in California. Voyager Labs is a scraping and surveillance service that improperly collected data from Facebook, Instagram and other websites. We disabled Voyager’s accounts, filed this action to enforce our Terms and Policies and asked the Court to ban Voyager from Facebook and Instagram,” the company said in a blog post.
What user data was collected
As per the lawsuit (reported by CNBC) in federal court in California, Voyager Labs created and operated more than 38,000 fake Facebook accounts to collect information from more than 600,000 Facebook users. The data included posts, likes, friends lists, photos, comments and information from groups and pages.
Meta also says that it uncovered the details in July 2022 and alleged that Voyager used surveillance software to scrape data from Facebook and Instagram, as well as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Telegram. “Scraping” is an automated process that involves a software that scans a web page and compiles information on it.
How Voyager Labs collected data
Meta explains that Voyager Labs developed and used proprietary software to launch scraping campaigns against multiple social media platforms. It designed its software to use fake accounts to scrape data accessible to a user when logged into Facebook.
“Voyager used a diverse system of computers and networks in different countries to hide its activity, including when Meta subjected the fake accounts to verifications or checks. Voyager did not compromise Facebook, instead it used fake accounts to scrape publicly viewable information,” Meta added.
Meta alleges that Voyager has violated its Terms of Service against fake accounts and unauthorised and automated scraping. It is seeking a permanent injunction against Voyager.
“Companies like Voyager are part of an industry that provides scraping services to anyone regardless of the users they target and for what purpose, including as a way to profile people for criminal behaviour. This industry covertly collects information that people share with their community, family and friends, without oversight or accountability, and in a way that may implicate people’s civil rights,” Meta notes in its announcement.
In September 2022, Meta settled a scraping case with BrandTotal and Unimania, after these companies agreed to stop “using and scraping Facebook and Instagram.”
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