Facebook filed a lawsuit against a Ukrainian national last week, alleging that he collected the data of 178 million of its users and then sold it on hacker forums.
Alexander Alexandrovich Solonchenko, the defendant, allegedly used the online monikers “Solomame” and “barak obama” on the RaidForums hacker site, where he allegedly sold illegally obtained material, according to Facebook.
Solonchenko, a freelance computer programmer, allegedly used Facebook’s Contact Importer tool to extract the user IDs and phone numbers of millions of Facebook users, according to the social media giant.
Users could import their contacts from their mobile devices’ address books using Facebook Messenger’s Contact Importer tool. The goal of Contact Importer’s feature was to allow users to identify friends linked with phone numbers uploaded from a phone’s address book by returning a one-to-one list of users whose phone numbers matched those uploaded from the phone’s address book.
Between January 2018 and September 2019, Solonchenko allegedly utilised this capability to harvest user IDs and phone information for about 178 million users, according to the business. The scrape involved automated requests that looked to come from a variety of Android devices, but were actually Android emulators that acted like real mobile devices.
In 2019, Facebook took steps to prevent the tool from being used to scrape data.
Facebook said Solonchenko’s scraped data was public, but his activities were against the company’s terms of service, which the Ukrainian agreed to because he had at least one Facebook account.
Solonchenko allegedly sold the scraped data on RaidForums beginning in October 2020, according to Facebook. In addition, the man is accused of selling stolen or scraped data from a major Ukrainian bank, a big Ukrainian delivery business, and a French data analytics firm.
According to the lawsuit, Facebook is seeking an injunction barring the defendant from using Facebook and its products, as well as an injunction prohibiting him from selling or distributing the scraped data, as well as damages “in an amount to be established at trial.” A jury trial is being sought by Facebook.
After information belonging to more than 500 million Facebook users was made public earlier this year, the firm stated the same Contact Importer function had been abused to acquire the data before 2019, when it took action to prevent exploitation.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has pursued data scrapers in court. It revealed in January that it had filed a lawsuit in Portugal against two people who had allegedly collected Facebook user data via deceptive browser extensions.