Facebook drags two companies to court for engaging in data scraping operations

Facebook drags two companies to court for engaging in data scraping operations
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Facebook now says it has registered a lawsuit in the U.S. against two companies engaging in global “data scraping” operation. The operation cut across Facebook properties, including both Facebook and Instagram, as well as other large websites and services, such as Amazon, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. These companies, which collect the data of Facebook users for “marketing intelligence” purposes, are doing so in violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service, says Facebook.

The businesses named in this court case are Unimania Inc.,a business incorporated in Delaware and Israeli-based BrandTotal Ltd.

Based on BrandTotal’s website, its company offers a real-time competitive intelligence platform that’s designed to give media, insights and analytics teams visibility into their competition’s social media strategy and paid campaigns. These insights would allow its customers to analyze and shift their budget allocation to target new opportunities, monitor trends and threats from emerging brands, optimize their ads and messaging and more.

Meanwhile, Unimania operated apps claimed to offer users the ability to access social networks in different ways. For example, Unimania offered apps that let you view Facebook via a mobile-web interface or alongside other social networks like Twitter. Another app let you view Instagram Stories anonymously, it claimed.

However, Facebook’s lawsuit is largely focused on two browser extensions offered by the companies: Unimania’s “Ads Feed” and BrandTotal’s “UpVoice.”

The former allowed users to save the ads they saw on Facebook for later reference. But as the extension’s page discloses, doing so would opt users into a panel that informed the advertising decisions of Unimania’s corporate customers. UpVote, on the other hand, rewarded users with gift cards for using top social networking and shopping sites and sharing their opinions about the online campaigns run by big brands.

Facebook says these extensions operated in violation of its protections against scraping and its terms of service. When users installed the extensions and visited Facebook websites, the extensions installed automated programs to scrape their name, user ID, gender, date of birth, relationship status, location information and other information related to their accounts. The data was then sent to a server shared by BrandTotal and Unimania.