Meta is suing a “for-hire” service that sold user data to law enforcement

Meta said it is suing Voyager Labs, a “for-hire” service it claims used fake accounts, special software and a vast network of IP addresses to secretly collect large amounts of personal information from users. Facebook, Instagram users, Twitter and other social networks. network sites.

“The defendant obtained the visible profile information of more than 600,000 Facebook users, including posts, likes, friend lists, photos and comments, as well as from Facebook groups and pages,” the lawyers said. Metan wrote in his complaint. “Defendant designed the surveillance software to hide its existence and activities from Meta and others, and sold and licensed the data it obtained for profit.”

“Emphasize individuality”

Meta said Facebook users living in California whose data was deleted included “employees at nonprofits, universities, news organizations, health care facilities, the U.S. military, and local, state and federal government agencies. , as well as full-time parents, retirees and union members. Meta said collecting data and using fake accounts violates its terms of service.

Based in Israel, Voyager Labs bills itself as an “AI-powered survey that uses artificial intelligence” to collect data from “billions of ‘human pixels’ and signals” and map connections, track geographic locations and other personal data. agencies”. responsible for public safety. »

“Using this vast ocean of data, they can gain actionable insights about individuals, groups and topics, then drill down to uncover even more,” company officials wrote in marketing materials attached to Meta Complaint. The tagline on the Voyager Labs letterhead is: “Individualism is the focus.”

In one case, the service used Facebook posts to identify the full names of an Italian marathon runner and his wife who contracted COVID-19. The service then provided a list of friends and people the runner was in contact with. In a different case, Voyager Labs identified patrons of a British pub who may have been infected with a deadly virus.

Voyager Lab’s clients include the Los Angeles Police Department, according to exhibits. Voyager Labs “was able to identify several new targets in an easier-to-read format” and “was able to process warranty returns faster, which was easier to read,” according to a statement from a member of the department.

Images from some of the exhibits are in the gallery below:

Meta is seeking a permanent injunction that would prevent Voyager Labs from continuing the experiment.

Jessica Romero, the platform’s Meta Director of Enforcement and Litigation, wrote in the lawsuit:

Voyager developed and used special programs to launch scraping campaigns against Facebook and Instagram and websites such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Telegram. Voyager developed scraping software to use fake accounts to scrape data accessible to a user while logged into Facebook, including user profile information, posts, friend lists, photos and comments. Voyager used a system of different computers and networks in different countries to hide its activities, including running fake accounts through Meta checks or vouchers. Voyager did not compromise Facebook, but instead used fake accounts to access publicly available information.

Our lawsuit alleges that Voyager violated our Terms of Service against fraudulent accounts and unauthorized, automated scraping. We are seeking a permanent injunction against Voyager to protect people from scraping services. Companies like Voyager are part of an industry that provides scraping services to anyone, from which users to target and for what purpose, including as a way to profile people for criminal behavior. This industry secretly collects information that people share with their community, family and friends without oversight or accountability and in ways that can violate people’s civil rights.

Voyager Lab representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit is at least the second time Meta has filed a lawsuit over an alleged data breach on its platform. In July, the company sued Octopus, the U.S. subsidiary of the Chinese national technology company, for allegedly offering to take down any website, and suing Turkey-based defendant Ekrem Ates for allegedly using it to delete information from their Instagram account profiles. more than 350,000 users of this platform.

The Meta doesn’t exactly have clean hands when it comes to unwanted scratches. Several Facebook users who switched to contact sharing in 2018 were shocked to discover that the company had collected years of phone call metadata from their Android phones. The information includes names, phone numbers, and the duration of each call made or received. Facebook has denied that the data was secretly collected.

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