BrandTotal Can Proceed With Some Facebook Data Access Claims

A federal judge has handed Facebook a partial defeat in its battle with analytics company BrandTotal over access to ad-related data.

In a ruling issued Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero in the Northern District of California said BrandTotal could proceed with some of its claims against Facebook -- including an allegation that Facebook interfered with BrandTotal's contracts with its clients.

Spero issued his decision on Thursday, but hasn't yet publicly released his full opinion, including his reasoning.

The ruling stems from a dispute dating to last September, when Facebook took steps to ban BrandTotal's UpVoice browser extension from the platform, and demanded that Google remove UpVoice from the Chrome Web Store.

BrandTotal utilized the UpVoice extension to gather data about ads from Facebook users, who receive compensation from BrandTotal.

Facebook alleged in a lawsuit brought in September that BrandTotal's UpVoice violated the social networking platform's terms of service -- which prohibit scraping -- and ran afoul of a federal anti-hacking law.

Two weeks later, BrandTotal countersued Facebook, claiming that the social networking service interfered with BrandTotal's contracts and engaged in unfair competition, among other allegations. BrandTotal also sought a temporary restraining order requiring Facebook to stop blocking BrandTotal, and to rescind the takedown notice sent to Google.

In November, Spero denied BrandTotal's request for a temporary restraining order. Earlier this year, he also dismissed BrandTotal's counterclaims, but said the company could redraft them.

In March, BrandTotal amended its complaint to include new allegations -- including that Facebook knew of several contracts between BrandTotal and specific customers. (Some passages of the amended complaint, such as the names of BrandTotal's customers, were blacked out of the publicly filed document.)

Facebook sought to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing that BrandTotal “recklessly built a business monetizing data it improperly harvested.”

Spero threw out some of BrandTotal's claims, but said the company could proceed with others -- including that Facebook interfered with BrandTotal's relationships with its clients.

Since the case was first filed, BrandTotal released UpVoice 2021-- a new version of its data-collection tool that, according to the company, only gathers information about ad viewership, and not demographic data. BrandVoice said it gathers demographic data about users when they sign up with the company, and therefore doesn't need to gather that data from Facebook.

BrandTotal said in court papers that it began deploying UpVoice 2021 on March 11, without permission from Facebook.

Last week, Facebook agreed to allow new version of UpVoice to remain on the site -- at least for now.

BrandTotal stated Friday that it plans to continue to seek a permanent injunction and monetary damages.

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