Taking Legal Action Against Data Scraping

By Jessica Romero, Director of Platform Enforcement and Litigation

Update on September 30, 2022 at 10:30 AM PT:

After the Court granted summary judgment in favor of a number of our claims, the parties have reached a settlement in the case of Meta Platforms, Inc. v. BrandTotal Ltd & Unimania, Inc. BrandTotal and Unimania have agreed to a permanent injunction banning them from using and scraping Facebook and Instagram. BrandTotal and Uninamia also agreed to pay a significant financial sum as part of the settlement. This legal action is part of our ongoing efforts to protect our users and to enforce our Terms.

Update on Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 3:45PM PT: On October 14, we filed a new complaint in federal court in California against BrandTotal and Unimania after the defendants published a new malicious extension on Google’s Chrome Web Store designed to scrape Facebook, in violation of Facebook’s Terms and Policies and state and federal law.

Originally published on October 1, 2020 at 11:30AM PT:

Today, we filed a lawsuit in the US against two companies 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. The actions of BrandTotal Ltd., an Israeli-based company, and Unimania Inc., incorporated in Delaware, violate our Terms of Service and we are pursuing legal action to protect our users. 

Scraping is a form of data collection that relies on unauthorized automation for the purpose of extracting data from a website or app. In order to evade our protections against scraping, these companies exploited our users’ access to our service through a set of browser extensions called “UpVoice” and “Ads Feed” designed to access and collect data. When people installed the extensions and visited our websites the browser extensions used automated programs to scrape their name, user ID, gender, date of birth, relationship status, location information, and other information related to their accounts. The defendants’ extensions sent the scraped data to a server shared by BrandTotal and Unimania. 

This case is the latest example of our actions to disrupt and enforce against companies that scrape user data, as well as those who enable them. This past June, we filed lawsuits on two continents against companies and individuals providing automation software services that enabled scraping and fake engagement. It marked one of the the first times a social media company used a coordinated legal strategy across jurisdictions to enforce its Terms and protect its users. Prior to filing these cases, we had disabled their accounts and sent them cease and desist letters. After they ignored our warnings, we took additional legal action.   

In March 2019, we took legal action against two Ukranian developers who were harvesting data using quiz apps and browser extensions to scrape profile information and people’s friends lists on Facebook. We had also disabled their accounts and apps and sent them cease and desist letters. A Court in California recently recommended a judgment in our favor on that case. In a separate case, another Court in California also ruled in favor of our practices against scraping in 2019.

Litigation is just one of the tools we use to combat scraping. We’ve also invested in technical teams and tools that monitor and detect suspicious activity and the use of unauthorized automation for scraping. This focus on scraping is part of our ongoing work to protect people’s privacy. In the coming months, we plan to discuss some of the other measures we’re using to proactively stop scraping.

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