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Meta sues data scrapers with China and Turkey ties

Meta filed separate actions in federal court against Octopus and Ekrem Ateş for scraping data from Facebook and Instagram.

The company accused Octopus, a US subsidiary of a Chinese national high-tech enterprise, of building a cloud-based platform to provide paying customers access to on-demand scraping software and services.

Octopus offered to scrape data from Amazon, eBay, Twitter, Yelp, Google, Target, Walmart, Indeed, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

“After paying for access to the scraping software, customers self-compromised their Facebook and Instagram accounts by providing their authentication information to Octopus,” Meta said. “Octopus designed the software to scrape data accessible to the user when logged into their accounts, including data about their Facebook Friends such as email address, phone number, gender, and date of birth, as well as Instagram followers and engagement information such as name, user profile URL, location and number of likes and comments per post.”

Meta is also taking action against a Turkey-based defendant Ekrem Ateş for allegedly using automated Instagram accounts to scrape data from the profiles of over 350,000 Instagram users.

Ekrem Ateş supposedly published the scraped data on clone sites – websites that copy and display Instagram profiles, posts, and other information without authorization.

Last December, Meta opened up two new research areas for its bug bounty community. The company now rewards reports about scraping bugs submitted by its Gold+ Hacker Plus researchers and reports of unprotected or openly public data sets containing at least 100,000 unique Facebook user records, including email, phone number, physical address, religious, or political affiliation.

Scraping is dangerous because it allows criminals to easily find new targets. Phishers and spammers often use data acquired from scrapers to find new victims: they can extract scraped public contact details and use them for robocalls, spam lists, and social engineering attacks, whereby threat actors can try to manipulate users into revealing their personal information and banking details.

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