Facebook has taken over 300 enforcement actions against people who abuse its platform in the past year, including sending cease and desist letters, disabling accounts, filing lawsuits, or requesting assistance from hosting providers to get them taken down.
The company said it has taken a tough stance over data scraping. Scraping is the automated collection of data from a website or app.
“If we find scraped datasets containing Facebook data, there are no surefire options for getting them taken down or going after those responsible for them, but we may take a number of actions,” the company said in a statement.
In a recent case, Facebook successfully reached a settlement with the operator of a service that violated its Terms called ‘Massroot8’.
“Along with shutting down the service, we permanently banned the operator and anyone acting on his behalf from Facebook or Instagram,” the company said in a statement.
Facebook said it has built an External Data Misuse team that consists of more than 100 people dedicated to detecting, investigating and blocking patterns of behaviour associated with scraping.
“We work with researchers to find and secure publicly accessible datasets that contain Facebook user data — whether the data appears to have originated from Facebook or a Facebook app developer. These datasets are found across a range of hosting providers and online platforms,” said the company.
One particular scraping technique that Facebook has worked hard to combat is known as “phone number enumeration.”
This involves using automated tools at scale to retrieve information about people based on their phone numbers.
Scraping affects a wide variety of companies and industries. Beyond social media platforms like Facebook, Linked In and Clubhouse, data scrapers have also collected personal information from home fitness equipment companies like Echelon and health apps like Strava as well as industries like banks, e-commerce, and hospitality.