Meta sues two parties for massive scraping of Instagram profiles

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Meta is suing a Turkish man for ‘scraping’ about 350,000 Instagram profiles. He allegedly published the information publicly on a cloned website. In addition, Meta is also suing a scrape service, Octopus.

The two parties are being sued by Meta for allegedly infringing Facebook and Instagram’s terms of use states the company. In scraping, an ‘attacker’ uses an automated way, in practice a bot, to massively extract data from a website. In principle, this is not illegal, although the indicted individual and the American company went further than just collecting public data, according to Meta.

In the case of the individual, that would have to do with publishing the captured data. The man is said to have copied information from 350,000 Instagram profiles by scraping. Subsequently, this information would have been made public on a cloning website. Meta therefore does not claim that scraping is an illegal form of hacking, or that this practice is inherently illegal. Instead, Meta invokes the social media terms of use and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a copyright law.

This accusation also applies to Octopus. The US subsidiary of a Chinese party is said to sell scraping as a service for a fee. According to the prosecutor, customers must share their login details, so that the scraping bots can see data that is otherwise not public. Meta wants the lawsuit to force the company to stop offering the service.

Scrapingbots can copy all data with an access account
that a normal user would also see. Image via Instagram

Meta writes: “We believe that Octopus has violated our terms of use and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by using unauthorized and automated [Facebook en Instagram] to scrape. They have also tried to disguise this practice so as not to be blocked by Facebook and Instagram.”

Octopus offers its service to a diverse selection of targets, including Amazon, eBay, Twitter, Yelp, Google, Target, Walmart, Indeed, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Usually it is explicitly stated in the user conditions of websites whether scraping of data is allowed or not. In principle, the automated collection of public data is not illegal, but it regularly happens that illegal actions take place in connection with the data obtained. In addition, Meta suggests that the two charges do not concern public data, but rather protected data that is only accessible to users with an account.

Instagram therefore prohibits scraping and sharing of data obtained in this way: “You must not attempt to create accounts or collect or access information in unauthorized ways. (…) You cannot sell an account or data, license or purchase that obtained from us or through our service.(…) You must not post anyone’s private or confidential information without permission and you must not do anything that infringes anyone’s rights, including intellectual property rights.” Facebook has similar terms of use.

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