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Meta suffered a setback in its legal dispute with the Israeli tech firm Bright Data, whom it sued the previous year for extracting data from Facebook and Instagram through web scraping. Meta, known for its litigation against data scraping enterprises, alleged that Bright Data's data harvesting violated its terms of service, to which Bright Data had consented through its accounts on Meta's platforms. Nonetheless, the court has supported Bright Data in the dispute over Meta's "breach of contract" allegation, stating that Meta failed to provide substantial evidence proving that the company had engaged in scraping beyond publicly available data.

The legal battle took an intriguing turn as it came to light that Meta had previously engaged Bright Data's web-scraping services and paid for data extraction from e-commerce websites. The purpose was to create brand profiles on Meta's platforms. Meta was a client of Bright Data's web-scraping services before initiating the lawsuit, albeit for a different objective. Furthermore, a related issue emerged, as Bright Data faced allegations of collecting personal information, particularly about minors, from Facebook and Instagram, as reported by Bloomberg last year.

The court has denied Meta's request for a partial summary judgment regarding the breach of contract claim due to insufficient evidence that Bright Data had scraped non-public data, which refers to data not protected by a login screen or password. Meta presented an example dataset offered for sale by Bright Data, consisting of 615 million records of Instagram user data, with a price tag of $860,000. According to Meta, Bright Data had been collecting and selling extensive user data, including fields like names, ID, post count, country, bio, followers, posts, hashtags, profile images, email, business category, and more. However, Meta was unable to prove that such data could only be accessed if Bright Data had accessed a user account.

In a separate instance highlighting Bright Data's actions, Meta sought to demonstrate that the company possessed non-public information. However, the court dismissed this as insufficient evidence of logged-in scraping, considering the possibility that the data could have been publicly accessible before a user modified their privacy settings.

Moreover, Meta contended that Bright Data had employed tools to bypass access restrictions, including CAPTCHAs, suggesting data collection "behind authentication barriers." The court disagreed, clarifying that using automated programs to circumvent CAPTCHAs differs from accessing a password-protected website, emphasizing Meta's understanding.

Despite Meta's anti-scraping investigation team discovering Bright Data's promotion of a "scraping browser" designed to automate login processes and simulate user actions for automated data collection, the court deemed this insufficient evidence to establish logged-in scraping in this particular case.

The court emphasized the need to assess the terms of both Facebook and Instagram independently, determining that there was no indication that Bright Data utilized its accounts on these platforms during the data scraping activities. Consequently, Bright Data was not considered a "user" of the services at the time but rather a logged-out "visitor." The court found Meta's additional legal arguments insufficient to sway the ruling in its favor regarding the breach of contract.

In response to the court's decision, a spokesperson for Meta stated, "We look forward to continuing our efforts to protect user data and are evaluating the next steps in the ongoing litigation." As a tech giant, Meta has consistently pursued legal action against companies involved in data-scraping activities, aiming to deter such practices. In October 2022, Meta settled with two other firms, BrandTotal Ltd. and Unimania Inc., based in Israel and Delaware. The agreement included a permanent injunction preventing them from scraping Facebook and Instagram data in the future, along with the payment of a "significant financial sum" to Meta, as announced by the company.

In 2020, Meta settled with the scraping service Massroot8. In 2022, it initiated legal action against a clone site operator and Octopus, a U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese high-tech enterprise offering scraping services. Meta emerged victorious in the latter case, securing a permanent injunction to halt the company's data-scraping operations. In a separate lawsuit last year, Meta took legal action against Voyager Labs, another scraping-for-hire firm, with the case remaining unsettled. The tech giant has consistently pursued legal measures against entities engaged in data scraping and web scraping activities to safeguard user data.

Data-scraping activities pose a significant threat to user privacy, as evidenced by previous instances of leaked data online, including the exposure of personal information from 533 million Facebook accounts. The ongoing legal case involving Bright Data, identified as case No. 3:23-cv-00077-EMC in the U.S. District Court in Northern California, sheds light on the potential risks associated with such practices.

The central allegation against Bright Data, presently under scrutiny, revolves around tortious interference with a contract. This legal conflict stems from Meta's insistence for Bright Data to discontinue its facilitation of customer efforts to gather public data through scraping activities on Facebook and Instagram.

Bright Data's CEO, Or Lenchner, emphasized the company's commitment to preserving the accessibility of public data. In response to Meta's demand, Bright Data resisted and addressed the matter in court. Lenchner asserted that public data should remain public, challenging the attempts of tech giants to exert exclusive control over public information on the Internet. The court's decision favoring Bright Data supports the argument that public information should be openly accessible.

The comment from CEO Or Lenchner highlights Bright Data's dedication to championing the fundamental right to free access to public information on the web. Bright Data is a leading web data collection company committed to continuing the fight for this fundamental right, emphasizing the importance of common sense in preserving the openness of public information online.

This legal case underscores the ongoing tension between companies engaging in web scraping for data extraction and tech giants seeking to control access to information. The outcome of this litigation could have broader implications for the balance between user privacy concerns and the accessibility of public data on the Internet. You can also reach us for all your mobile app scraping, instant data scraper and web scraping service requirements.


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