Social media network giant Facebook filed a lawsuit last Thursday, October 1, 2020, against two marketing companies for mining user data. According to ZD Net, the two marketing firms reportedly created and distributed malicious browser extensions that secretly obtained user information.
The two companies in question are Israeli-based BrandTotal Ltd. With a subsidiary in Delaware and Unimania Inc., a Delaware-incorporated firm.
ZD Net reports that the browser extensions, named UpVoice and Ads Feed, have been up on the Google Chrome Web Store from September and November 2019, respectively. Both Chrome extensions have been installed approximately 5,000 and 10,000 times.
The malicious browser extensions scraped user data from both Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram websites, notes Tech Crunch. The social media giant states that the use of such browser extensions was directly in violation of their terms of service and commercial terms.
In addition, the data scraping operation also affected other affiliated websites and other large networks, such as social media network Twitter and YouTube, Pinterest, Amazon, and LinkedIn.
In a statement found in court documents, Facebook accused the firms saying, “BrandTotal enticed users to install the UpVoice extension from the Google Chrome Store by offering payments in exchange for installs, in the form of online gift cards, and claiming that the users who installed the extension became ‘panelists… [who] impact the marketing decisions and brand strategies of multi-billion dollars (sic) corporations.”
Facebook also accused Unimania of “[promoting] its Ads Feed extension on the Google Chrome Store by claiming that the users became ‘a panel member’ of an elite community group that impacts the advertising decisions of multi-billion dollar corporations!”
Among the data obtained by the malicious browser extensions installed by BrandTotal and Unimania are user profile information, such as the user’s name, user ID, date of birth, gender, relationship status, and user information, reports ZD Net.
Moreover, the type of advertisements and the advertising metrics have also been obtained by the aforementioned companies. These include the image and text advertisement, name of the advertiser, user interaction, and user reaction metrics.
ZD Net reports that Ad Preferences of users have also been scrapped by the two firms. All the user data and ad-related information have not been allowed by Facebook.
To take appropriate actions, Tech Crunch reveals that Facebook will be doing more than just filing a lawsuit against the two marketing firms.
According to the news site, the social networking company has leveraged the help of technical teams and tools to determine data-scraping strategies and other suspicious activities.