Meta initiates legal action against Voyager Labs for creating 38,000 fake and unauthorized accounts to gather personal information from 600,000 Facebook users.
Meta has filed a federal lawsuit in California seeking a court order to prohibit Voyager from accessing Facebook and Instagram, claiming that the UK digital surveillance firm unlawfully gathered “viewable profile information” from users, including posts, likes, friends lists, photos, and comments, as well as data from Facebook groups and pages.
According to Gizmodo, Voyager then marketed the tool to companies interested in covertly monitoring social media sites, and sold it to the highest bidder.
Voyager is also accused of using fake accounts to collect data from other platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Telegram. As of yet, Meta – the parent company of Facebook – is the only social media company to take legal action against Voyager.
In a blog post discussing the legal filing, Meta stated that Voyager has breached Facebook’s terms of service regarding fake accounts and unauthorized scraping of data. The company also alleged that Voyager used a complex network of computers and networks across multiple countries to conceal its actions.
Meta further stated in the blog post that firms like Voyager are part of an industry that provides scraping services to anyone, regardless of the user’s targeted or intended purpose, including profiling people for criminal activities.
The company added that this industry secretly gathers information shared among communities, families, and friends, without any oversight or responsibility, in a manner that could threaten people’s civil rights.
In 2021, The Guardian reported that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had utilized a free trial of Voyager’s software in 2019 after the company had presented it as a surveillance tool for monitoring thousands of potential suspects’ online friends. The LAPD was reportedly told that the tool could be used to “predict” crime before it occurred.
Recently, the Supreme Court granted Meta permission to file a lawsuit against NSO Group, an Israeli spyware company, for allegedly accessing WhatsApp servers illegally when installing spyware on users’ devices.
Last month, Meta reached an agreement to pay $725 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that claimed the social media company shared users’ personal data with third parties without obtaining their consent.
The lawsuit, dating back to 2018, was filed after it was discovered that Facebook had shared the personal data of up to 87 million users with Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm.