Meta is filing a lawsuit against a U.S. division of a Chinese internet firm for allegedly providing data-scraping services for Facebook and Instagram.

In a statement announcing the legal pursuit, the parent company of Facebook said it wanted a perpetual injunction against Octopus Data, a Shenzhen Vision Information Technology Company subsidiary.

Web-scraping refers to the act of extracting a large amount of data from a web page. 

Meta said Octopus charges a fee for access to the Octoparse software program, which allows customers to start scraping attacks. They can also pay Octopus directly to scrape websites.

Meta said Octopus’ services are unauthorized and automated, adding that it tried to conceal scraping activities and avoid being detected and blocked from Facebook and Instagram.

Meta cited its Terms of Service and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for legal grounds against Octopus. According to Techcrunch, Meta is after Octopus for copyright and intellectual property (IP) breaches.

The Facebook parent company stated, “Companies like Octopus are part of an emerging scraping industry that provides automation services to any customer — regardless of who they target and for what purpose they scrape.”

Techcrunch noted by using Octopus’ services, users have to grant the software access to their accounts for it to collect information such as Facebook friends, email addresses, birth dates, phone numbers, and Instagram followers. These are generally private data usually accessible only when users are logged in. 

Octopus scrapes data from Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, and the company also harvests data on Amazon, eBay, Twitter, Yelp, Google, Target, Walmart, Indeed, and LinkedIn.

The case has been submitted to the Northern District of California’s U.S. District Court.

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