Meta Gets into Another Scrap over Data Hegemony |

Meta Gets into Another Scrap over Data Hegemony

What's interesting is that the lawsuit comes barely a few months after a US court had ruled such scraping to be within legal limits


Is data scraping legal or not? Looks like Facebook's parent company Meta thinks it isn't - this in spite of a US court recently reaffirming an earlier ruling that web scraping was permissible. So what if the world and their elderly aunts now talk about data sovereignty? In the world of Meta, data belongs to the one who hogs it first. 

Meta announced that it was suing the US subsidiary of a Chinese technology company over an accusation of offering data-scraping services for Facebook and Instagram. In case you've heard this before, don't be surprised as the social networking giant is a sworn enemy of web scrapers. This time Meta is suing an individual for setting up automated Insta accounts to scrape data. 

What's with the timing?

The cases have been filed in the US District Court for Northern District of California. This comes barely three months after the US Ninth Court of Appeals ruled in a case involving LinkedIn that scraping publicly available data was permissible. The case was sent back by the US Supreme Court last year for a review. 

The Ninth Circuit's reaffirmation of its original decision that scraping data wasn't in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFFA), was seen as a big win for archivists, academics, researchers and the media who use tools to mass collect data that is publicly accessible. 

Of course, the decision would also raise the hackles of privacy and security activists, given that only recently we faced the ignominy of a facial recognition company Clearview AI cleaning off billions of social media profile pictures that resulted in lawsuits. So, there's always a need for safeguards to be plugged in post such judgments. 

What's Facebook saying now? 

Internet companies have long questioned the data scraping by pegging it to the user's privacy matters. Meta now seems to be seeking legal recourse against a company called Octopus Data, which is a subsidiary of a Chinese national enterprise. In addition, the suit names a Turkey-based individual for allegedly publishing scraped Instagram data to their websites. 

So, instead of targeting the entities under the CFAA, Meta's lawyers are going after the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which is more concerned with intellectual property and copyright than the actual act of hacking. 

In other words, Meta says Octopus charges a fee for a software product called Octoparse to get such data from numerous sites. “Our lawsuit alleges that Octopus has violated our Terms of Service and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, by engaging in unauthorized and automated scraping and attempting to conceal their scraping and avoid being detected and blocked from Facebook and Instagram,” Jessica Romero, Meta’s director of platform enforcement and litigation, wrote in a blog post.

Readers may recall that Meta had managed to get the law on its side in another data scraping case against an Israeli company called BrandTotal that collected Facebook user data through a browser extension. 

TAGS: META, Facebook, data scraping