LONDON: Meta is accused of playing a double game on scraping, with the tech giant criticized for having scraped data for years while denouncing the practice.
According to evidence that surfaced from a legal case being pursued by the company, the tech giant has been subcontracting a company for years to scrape data from other websites, despite publicly criticizing the practice and suing companies that scrape data from its own social media platforms.
In an ironic twist, Meta filed a lawsuit against Israel-based data collection company Bright Data for allegedly pulling data from its platforms, but a series of emails between the two businesses reveals that Meta has worked with the Israeli firm for years.
The professional relationship was confirmed by Meta spokesperson Andy Stone, who said that the social media giant had hired Bright Data to pull information from a number of e-commerce sites in order to build brand profiles, as well as identify “harmful websites” and “phishing operations.”
“The collection of data from websites can serve legitimate integrity and commercial purposes, if done lawfully and in accordance with those websites’ terms,” said Stone.
He said that Meta was not using Bright Data to scrape rivals’ websites, but declined to specify what websites users’ data were pulled from.
Stone added that Meta interrupted its partnership with Bright Data after it found that the Israeli company breached terms and conditions for carrying out the practice on Meta’s own platforms.
“Many companies scrape websites to retrieve data that can help them keep track of competitors, better understand a specific audience, follow market trends and compare prices,” tech expert and writer Marissa Newman said.
“However, scraping can pose a privacy risk when it targets personal information, such as contact details, and runs foul of EU law if companies do not make an effort to prevent that through technical and legal means.”
In recent years, Meta has cracked down on scraping practices and pursued legal action against companies that carry out scraping-for-hire services on its platform.
Earlier in January, Meta filed a claim against surveillance company Voyage Lab, claiming it allegedly created more than 38,000 accounts to collect data from over 600,000 Facebook users.
Bright Data CEO Or Lenchner said the two companies had a “long-lasting successful partnership,” adding that Meta “has long been a valued client of our proxy and scraping services for six years.”
The Israeli data collection company decided to file a countersuit, claiming that it followed EU and US regulations, and acquired only public information that was not password-protected.