Facebook Sues Canadian Porn Company For Alleged Hacking

by , Dec 18, 2007, 7:30 AM
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Facebook is suing Canadian pornography company Istra Holdings for allegedly attempting to hack into the site to obtain members' email addresses and other personal information.

The social networking site filed the amended lawsuit in federal district court in San Jose, Calif. last week, charging Istra with breach of contract and violations of computer fraud laws.

The complaint charges that Istra, operating as Slickcash.com, tried to mine Facebook for information about members. In a two-week period in June, Istra and people operating on its behalf allegedly made more than 200,000 attempts to access Facebook's data about its users, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit doesn't make clear whether Istra allegedly succeeded in obtaining information about Facebook members or sending messages to them.

Facebook initially sued in June, but only knew the IP address where the hacking attempts originated. The company learned of Istra's identity after subpoenaing Canadian Internet service providers Rogers Communications and Look Communications.

The social networking site is requesting at least $5,000 in damages, on grounds that it had to expend resources to prevent Istra from accessing its network.

But the company could have a very difficult time proving that it actually suffered significant monetary damages, says Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute, Santa Clara University School of Law.

In February, MySpace was able to obtain monetary damages against Globe.com based on similar allegations; however, according to Goldman, that was partly because Globe.com succeeded in sending approximately 400,000 unsolicited messages promoting its Voiceover Internet Protocol phone service to MySpace members. MySpace's terms of service provided that members who sent unsolicited messages to others were liable for $50 per message.

"Globe.com was portrayed as a spammer-- and spammers are going to lose," Goldman said.

Efforts to spam social network members also sparked at least one other lawsuit involving Facebook: The social networking site is currently suing Connect U for allegedly trying to mine the site. That case was filed after Connect U sued Facebook for allegedly infringing Connect U's intellectual property rights.

Facebook declined to comment on the Istra Holdings lawsuit. Istra Holdings did not respond to a request for comment.

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