The Israeli company claims to use artificial intelligence to analyze billions of human pixels and signals.
Meta said it is suing Voyager Labs, a “wage-scraping” service, for allegedly using fake accounts, proprietary software and a vast network of IP addresses to secretly collect vast amounts of personal data from users of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social networking sites.
“The defendant created and used more than 38,000 fake Facebook user accounts and used his surveillance software to access the viewable profile information of more than 600,000 Facebook users, including posts, likes, friend lists, photos and comments, and Facebook groups. and pages. Defendant designed the Surveillance Software to hide its presence and activities from Meta and others, and sold and licensed the data it scraped for profit,” the lawyers wrote in Meta’s complaint.
Among the California Facebook users whose data was scraped, according to Meta, were “employees of nonprofit organizations, universities, news media organizations, health care facilities, the United States Armed Forces, and local, state and federal government agencies, as well as full-time parents, retirees and trade union members”. According to Meta, collecting data and using fake accounts violates the terms of service.
Israel-based Voyager Labs bills itself as an “artificial intelligence-powered investigative 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 data to “agencies charged with public safety.” .
“Taking advantage of this vast ocean of data, they can gain actionable insights about individuals, groups and topics, and then dive deep to discover even more,” company officials wrote in marketing material attached as evidence to the Meta complaint. The slogan on Voyager Labs letterhead is “Bringing individuality to light.”
In one case, the service identified the full names of an Italian marathon runner and his wife, who were infected with the COVID-19 virus, based on Facebook posts. The service then provided a list of friends and individuals who had contacted the runner. In another case, Voyager Labs identified patrons of a British pub who may have contracted the deadly virus.
Voyager Labs clients reportedly include the Los Angeles Police Department. Voyager Labs “was able to identify some new targets in a much easier to read format” and “was able to process the return of search warrants much faster, which were much easier to read,” a member of the police reported. Meta is seeking a permanent injunction preventing Voyager Labs from continuing this practice.
Jessica Romero, Director of Enforcement and Litigation at Meta Platform, announced the lawsuit he wrote:
“Voyager used proprietary and proprietary software to launch scraping campaigns against Facebook and Instagram, as well as websites such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Telegram. Voyager designed its scraping software to use fake accounts on Facebook logging in to scrape user-accessible data, including users’ profile information, posts, friend lists, photos, and comments Voyager used a diverse array of computers and networks in different countries to hide its activities, including when Meta identified fake accounts as verifications or Voyager did not compromise Facebook, but instead used fake accounts to query publicly viewable information.
According to our lawsuit, Voyager violated our terms of service against fake accounts and against unauthorized and automated data collection. We are seeking a permanent injunction against Voyager to protect people from their data collection services for hire. Companies like Voyager are part of an industry that provides data collection services to anyone, regardless of who they target and for what purpose, including criminal profiling. This industry collects information that people share with their communities, family and friends in secret, without oversight or accountability, and in ways that may violate people’s civil rights.”
The lawsuit is at least the second time Meta has taken legal action over alleged data collection on its platform. In July, the company sued Octopus, the U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese national high-tech enterprise that allegedly offered to scrape any website, and sued Turkey-based Ekrem Ateş for allegedly using Instagram accounts to scrape data from from the profiles of more than 350,000 users of the platform.
Not that Meta’s hands are completely clean when it comes to unwanted scraping. Several Facebook users who had consented to contact sharing were shocked to discover in 2018 that the company had been collecting phone call metadata from their Android phones for years. The data included names, phone numbers and the length of each call made or received. Facebook denied that the data was collected secretly, it writes ArsTechnika.