Published: October 25, 2021
Facebook filed a lawsuit against a freelance Ukrainian programmer Alexander Alexandrovich Solonchenko. The tech giant is accusing him of scraping phone numbers and selling data of over a million Facebook users, which was publicly accessible.
Solonchenko allegedly scraped phone numbers and user IDs off 178 million Facebook accounts in 2018 and 2019 by automated means. Further allegation shows that the programmer sold that information on an online marketplace in May of this year.
Namely, Solonchenko abused the Contact Importer tool in order to scrape the phone numbers and user IDs. The said feature in Facebook’s Messenger enabled users to upload contacts from their address book on their mobile devices. The primary purpose of the Contact Importer was to identify friends matched with the uploaded phone numbers.
Facebook filed the lawsuit on Thursday last week in the Northern District of California federal court, revealing that most of the stolen data belonged to users in the United States. The said lawsuit contains the argument from Facebook that Solonchenko breached Facebook’s terms of service. The terms prohibit users from doing anything misleading, unlawful, or fraudulent.
Solonchenko’s Facebook and Instagram accounts have already been disabled since. Furthermore, his access to the company’s websites has also been revoked. Facebook requests a jury trial for this lawsuit.
Notably, this is far from the first time Facebook took legal action against scrapers. In January, the tech giant filed a lawsuit in Portugal against two people. Allegedly, the two individuals had collected Facebook user data via misleading browser extensions.