Meta said it is suing Voyager Labs, a “for-hire” service, for allegedly using fake accounts, special software and a vast network of IP addresses to secretly collect large amounts of personal information from users of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social networks. network sites.
“The defendant created and used more than 38,000 fake Facebook user accounts and its Control Software to remove the visible profile information of more than 600,000 Facebook users, including posts, likes, friend lists, photos and comments, Facebook Groups and Pages,” Metan said. wrote in his complaint. “Defendant designed the Surveillance Software to hide its existence and activities from Meta and others, and sold and licensed the information it obtained for profit.”
Meta said Facebook users living in California include “employees from non-profit organizations, universities, news media organizations, health care facilities, the US armed forces, and local, state and federal government agencies. , as well as full-time parents, retirees and union members. Meta said that collecting data and using fake accounts violates its terms of service.
Based in Israel, Voyager Labs bills itself as an “AI-powered investigations” service that collects data from “billions of ‘human pixels’ and signals” and uses artificial intelligence to map relationships, track geographic locations and provide other personal information to “agencies”. assigned to ensure public safety”.
“Using this vast ocean of data, they can gain actionable insights about individuals, groups and topics, and then drill down to uncover more,” company officials wrote in marketing material attached as an exhibit to Meta’s complaint. The slogan on Voyager Labs’ letterhead is: “Unveiling the Individual.”
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 individuals who communicated with the runner. In a different case, Voyager Labs identified the patrons of an English pub as possibly infected with a deadly virus.
Voyager Labs’ 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 more quickly with an easier-to-read format,” a statement provided by a department member said.
Pictures from some of the exhibits are in the gallery below:
Meta is seeking a permanent injunction to prevent Voyager Labs from continuing this practice.
In announcing the lawsuit, Jessica Romero, the platform’s Meta Director of Enforcement and Litigation, wrote:
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 users’ data accessible to the user when they log into Facebook, including 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 by subjecting the Meta fake accounts to checks or audits. Voyager did not compromise Facebook, instead using fake accounts to scrape publicly viewable data.
Our lawsuit alleges that Voyager violated our Terms of Service against fraudulent accounts and unauthorized and automated scraping. We are seeking a permanent injunction against Voyager to protect people from 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 behavior. This industry surreptitiously collects information that people share with their communities, families, and friends, without oversight or accountability, and in ways that can violate people’s civil rights.
Voyager Labs representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit is at least the second time Meta has taken legal action over an alleged data breach on its platform. In July, the company sued Octopus, the U.S. subsidiary of the Chinese national high-tech enterprise, and offered to hack any websites it allegedly hacked, and sued Turkish-born defendant Ekrem Atesh for allegedly using their Instagram accounts to delete data from their profiles. more than 350,000 users of this platform.
Meta doesn’t exactly have clean hands when it comes to unwanted scraps. In 2018, many Facebook users who chose to share contacts were dismayed to discover that the company was collecting years worth of phone call metadata from their Android phones. The information includes names, phone numbers, and the length of each call made or received. Facebook has denied that the data was secretly collected.