Meta has launched two new lawsuits against data-scraping sites, which have been scraping Instagram and Facebook user data for unauthorized use, while it also scored another victory in its battle against the misuse of the platform, with a court ruling in its favor in another case. related to cloning sites.
First, on its new actions – Meta has launched legal action against two companies that offer data recovery services, which illegally use people’s uploaded information for unintended purposes.
As Meta explains:
“The first action is against a company called Octopus, an American subsidiary of a national Chinese high-tech company which claims to have more than one million customers. Octopus offers scraping services and access to software that customers can use to scrape any website. For a fee, Octopus customers can launch scraping attacks from its cloud-based platform or hire Octopus to scrape websites directly. Octopus offers to retrieve data from Amazon, eBay, Twitter, Yelp, Google, Target, Walmart, Indeed, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
Meta says Octopus’ system is able to extract data about people’s Facebook friends such as email address, phone number, gender and date of birth, as well as Instagram followers and engagement information, such as name, user profile URL, location, and number. of likes and comments per post’.
This is information that users never intended to use in this way, and Meta seeks to establish a clearer legal position on this type of misuse.
The second company Meta filed a lawsuit against is run by a single operator in Turkeyand uses automated Instagram accounts to retrieve profile data from over 350,000 Instagram users.
“These profiles were visible to logged in Instagram users. The defendant published the extracted data on its own websites or “clone sites”. A cloning site is a website that copies and displays Instagram profiles, posts and other information without permission.
Both appear to be fairly clear violations of Meta’s Terms of Service, but the technical legalities of online data scraping aren’t so definitive, with LinkedIn currently engaged in a years-long battle over a similar data scraping case. data, in which the users LinkedIn information available is used to feed an external database of employees and a recruitment site.
In the most recent finding in this case, the Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled that scraping publicly available data on the Internet did not violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, although users did not explicitly provide consent for their information to be used by third-party providers in this way.
This case will no doubt also be used in the defense against Meta’s latest legal actions – but as Meta points out, there is a difference here in that the information collected by these tools is not publicly available, as as such, which is part of why Meta has gradually locked down Facebook and Instagram data more and more over the years, giving the company a more definitive legal basis in such misuse.
This could lead to a new legal precedent for this, which won’t necessarily help in LinkedIn’s case – but again, LinkedIn has also decided to lock down more of its users’ data to combat the same, which could possibly see any decision apply to all these cases.
Either way, misusing user data in this way is clearly a breach of privacy, as it takes people’s personal information without their consent. Somehow it looks like the laws on this need to be updated – and perhaps these new Meta cases can further the argument in this regard.
This is what Meta has tried to do with its various lawsuits against misuse of the platform. And recently it scored a victory, with a court ruling that found another operator who scraped Instagram user data to power clone sites guilty of abuse.
According to Meta:
“In 2020, we took action against an accused scraping people’s publicly visible information from Instagram to create a network of clone sites. This was a violation of our Terms of Service and we took legal action to protect our users. The Court recently issued a final judgment in our favor and found the defendant liable for harvesting Instagram user data and reposting it on its clone sites. The defendant was ordered by the court to pay over $200,000 and is banned from using Facebook or Instagram.
Each ruling in favor of Meta helps set a clearer precedent, and as it continues to launch new legal proceedings to reiterate the importance of data scraping and misuse, this, ideally, will further strengthen the Meta’s broader workload to solidify legal status.
Which will see this type of activity further prohibited and penalized, and ultimately deter space fraud. This takes time, as each case must go through the court process (per this recent ruling), but Meta continues to build a stronger foundation for future cases at every stage.
Which is another way to move the laws around this, incorporating proxy rulings, which will help deal with such obvious legal violations in the future.
There’s a long way to go, on many fronts, but Meta’s legal procedures help lay the groundwork for the law around these evolving forms of data misuse.