A Ukrainian programmer allegedly scraped and sold publicly accessible data from millions of Facebook users.
On Thursday, Facebook filed a lawsuit against Alexander Alexandrovich Solonchenko for using automated ways to scrape phone numbers of 178 million Facebook users. It happened between 2018 and 2019.
Selling it to Online Marketplace
After scraping the data, the hacker allegedly sold the data to an online marketplace in May 2021. Most of the stolen data is associated with users living in the US.
Data scraping or web scraping is the process of importing data from a site and saving it on a computer. This is an efficient way to obtain data from the web.
But Facebook prohibits automated data collection and uploading user data to directories without its consent.
Facebook Messenger has a contact importer. It’s a feature that lets users sync their phone address books to help them find which of their contacts are on Facebook Messenger. The hacker allegedly exploited it to scrape the data.
Technically, the data is publicly available. However, Facebook doesn’t allow selling it for profit. But the hacker did sell it to online forums under the alias Solomane.
Facebook is asking judges to put a temporary order on Solonchenko to stop him from accessing the social media platform’s sites or selling the data.
The said hacker is said to be a prolific online hacker. The social media platform is seeking an undisclosed amount of damages.
The lawsuit stated that the online hacker allegedly previously sold scraped data from Ukrainian banks and delivery services.
But Solochenko isn’t the only hacker who scraped data from the website. Other hackers have also used the same method to steal data from the site.
In fact, in 2019, it was reported that one user obtained 533 million phone numbers from Facebook users, and the hacker sold them online.
Meanwhile, a former Facebook employee told US authorities that the company is putting profits first before preventing problematic content from plaguing the platform. The new whistleblower filed a complaint with the SEC that could add to Facebook’s woes.
Over the past month, the company has been facing a storm of criticism after one of its former employees leaked internal studies that showed the platform knew about the potential harm supplied by Facebook sites. As a result, it prompted US lawmakers to push for regulation.
Expanding the Business
Despite the storm of criticism that Facebook is handling, the company is still finding ways to expand the business. Recently, the Verge claimed that the company is changing its name to introduce metaverse, which is its most ambitious project.
In August, the company introduced Horizon Workrooms and announced that it’s hiring 10,000 people in Europe to develop metaverse.
The company purchased several companies, including Oculus VR, Beat Games, and the Giphy platform. The platform has indeed set the stage to create a parent brand that includes all the businesses and represents its new identity beyond social media platforms.
Currently, Facebook hasn’t disclosed its new name yet. But the company will make the big reveal on October 28, during its Connect event.