Meta sues AI company for scraping user data

Meta has announced legal action against controversial Voyager Labs.

Meta stated on January 12 that it will file a legal complaint in the federal court in California against Voyager Labs. The company provides AI-based investigation solutions.

Meta blamed Voyager Labs for improperly collecting data from Facebook, Instagram, and other websites. Voyager launched scraping operations targeting Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Telegram using fake accounts to collect data such as user's profile information, posts, friends lists, photos, and comments.

To conceal its activity, Voyager employed a variety of computers and networks across different countries and continued scraping even when the fake accounts were subject to verifications or checks by Facebook.

Voyager's actions did not involve compromising Facebook's systems but rather obtaining publicly available information through the use of fake accounts. Meta has banned Voyager Labs from the company’s platforms.

Claims to predict crime

The lawsuit comes after The Guardian’s investigation revealed Los Angel's (LA) police department used Voyager Labs' social media surveillance software to monitor social media users. The controversial tech company claimed to be capable of predicting crimes from social media data and helping to monitor private messages without social media companies noticing the surveillance.

The Guardian also wrote that LA police had used surveillance technology similar to Voyager’s to monitor the Black Lives Matter movement and protests related to the death of George Floyd.

“Our lawsuit alleges that Voyager has violated our Terms of Service against fake accounts and unauthorized and automated scraping. We are seeking a permanent injunction against Voyager to protect people against scraping-for-hire services,” stated Meta.

According to Meta, businesses like Voyager Labs offer data scraping services to anybody, regardless of their motivation and targets.

“This industry covertly collects information that people share with their community, family and friends, without oversight or accountability, and in a way that may implicate people’s civil rights,” claimed the company.

Meta is not protecting user data

Meta itself has been involved in the user data protection controversy for decades and is constantly fined by law enforcement. The newest fine came in January when the company was fined €390m ($414m) for breaching the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with targeted advertisement.

In October, Meta was fined €265m ($277m) by Ireland’s data privacy regulator over a leak that exposed hundreds of millions of user records. According to Reuters, Meta’s fines by Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC), have already reached almost €1 billion.

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