Meta has sued a scraping-for-hire service called Voyager Labs that created over 38,000 fake Facebook user accounts and used its surveillance software to gather data from Facebook and Instagram without authorization.

The company filed the lawsuit in a federal court in California against Voyager Labs for creating fake accounts and scraping user data.

“We disabled Voyager’s accounts, filed this action to enforce our Terms and Policies and asked the Court to ban Voyager from Facebook and Instagram,” said the company.

Voyager developed and used proprietary software to launch scraping campaigns against Facebook and Instagram, and websites such as Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Telegram.

According to Meta, it designed its scraping software to use fake accounts to scrape data accessible to a user when logged into Facebook, including users’ profile information, posts, friends lists, photos and comments.

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“Voyager used a diverse system of computers and networks in different countries to hide its activity, including when Meta subjected the fake accounts to verifications or checks. Voyager did not compromise Facebook, instead, it used fake accounts to scrape publicly viewable information,” said the tech giant.

The lawsuit alleged that Voyager has violated Meta’s terms of service against fake accounts and unauthorized and automated scraping.

“We are seeking a permanent injunction against Voyager to protect people against scraping-for-hire services. Companies like Voyager are part of an industry that provides scraping services to anyone regardless of the users they target and for what purpose, including as a way to profile people for criminal behaviour,” Meta stressed.

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In 2021, Voyager Labs reportedly sold its services to the Los Angeles Police Department.