Meta (formerly known as Facebook Inc.) has initiated legal action "scraping-for-hire" service Voyager Labs for secretly collecting massive amounts of personal data from users of social networking sites including Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram.
The lawsuit, filed in a Federal Court in California, alleged that Voyager Labs, an international scraping, and surveillance service, wrongly collected data from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Telegram through fake accounts, which violated the terms and conditions for use of the platforms.
It is alleged that Voyager labs created and used over 38,000 fake Facebook user accounts and its surveillance software to scrape more than 600,000 Facebook users' viewable profile information, including posts, likes, friends list, photos, comments, and information from Facebook Groups and Pages, according to the lawsuit.
The firm designed the software to obscure its presence and activity from Meta and others, and sold and licensed for profit the data it scraped.
The Director of Platform Enforcement and Litigation Jessica Romero clarified that Voyager's proprietary software uses fake accounts to scrape data accessible to a user logged onto Facebook.
She contended that Voyager used a diverse system of computers and networks in different countries to hide its activity and foil Meta's attempts to verify the fake accounts. Meta is currently in the process of seeking a permanent injunction against Voyager to protect people against scraping-for-hire services.
"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," Jessica stated.
She further claimed that, "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. These services operate across many platforms and national boundaries and require a collective effort from platforms, policymakers, and civil society to deter the abuse of these capabilities."
The Facebook-parent is now seeking damages and injunctive relief from Voyager labs for violating Facebook's and Instagram's terms, as well as California law.