Meta accuses data scrapers of taking more than their share • The Register

Facebook parent Meta openly collects data from its billions of users, but if other companies scrape that data, it can be a problem, according to two lawsuits filed today.

Jessica Romero, Meta’s director of platform enforcement and litigation, said the US tech giant has filed two federal lawsuits: one against scraping-for-hire company Octopus and one against Ekrem Ateş, a Turkish individual who allegedly uses Instagram data clone to a website.

Scraping involves extracting data from publicly available sources, such as B. profile pages, and in some cases private data kept behind login pages. Part of the problem with companies like Octopus, Romero argued, is that they offer automated scraping services to anyone, regardless of who they target or why, and — crucially — without permission from the source side.

Romero said Octopus is “a US subsidiary of a Chinese national high-tech company that claims to have over a million customers.” Octoparse scraping software is offered online and can reportedly pull information from websites including those from Meta, Amazon, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn.

According to Romero, users self-compromised their accounts when signing up for Octopus’ services by providing login credentials to the company. Octoparse was designed “to scrape data that the user can access when logged into their accounts”. The scraped data included email addresses, phone numbers, gender, date of birth, post likes/comments, and more.

The lawsuit against Octopus alleges violations of the Terms of Service and U.S. copyright law Digital Millennium for conducting automated scraping without Meta’s permission and attempting to hide its activities. Facebook is seeking a permanent injunction against Octopus to prevent operations on one of its pages.

We reached out to Meta to find out more about Octopus and his allegations.

As for Ateş, Meta claims that without the web giant’s blessing, he scraped the data of over 350,000 Instagram users to repost them on a “clone site” called MyStalk, which shows Instagram profile information and posts. Romero said Meta has taken several actions against Ateş since 2021, including deactivating his accounts, serving a cease and desist letter, and revoking his access to Meta services.

Facebook has been scraped before. Over the course of almost two years, starting in early 2018, a Ukrainian citizen named Alexander Alexandrovich Solonchenko extracted data from 178 million Facebook users. Facebook sued Solonchenko in October 2021.

Meta added scraping attacks to its bug bounty program a few months later, but the language in the lawsuit says a lot about Meta’s attitude towards the sanctity of the data it is responsible for.

“The goal of this program is to find bugs that attackers use to bypass scraping restrictions to access data at a larger scale than the product intended,” said Facebook Security Engineering Manager Dan Gurfinkel. Romero’s essay reflects some of these sentiments, calling Octopus’ scraping “unauthorized” and failing to express dissatisfaction with its scraping data at all.

These carefully chosen words shouldn’t be ignored: Meta doesn’t seem to mind people scraping data off their sites—provided they do it in a way the company approves. ® Meta accuses data scrapers of taking more than their share • The Register

Chrissy Callahan

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