Facebook Settles Scraping Battle With Analytics Company

Analytics company BrandTotal and Meta Platforms agreed to resolve a two-year battle over BrandTotal's collection of data from Facebook and Instagram users, according to papers filed Friday with U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Spero in San Francisco.

As part of the settlement, BrandTotal is agreeing to refrain from scraping consumer data, and from using (or selling) data previously collected through automated means. The company will also destroy information it previously amassed through its downloadable extension.

Other deal terms are confidential, but a Meta spokesperson said BrandTotal agreed to pay "a significant financial sum." 

The deal resolves a lawsuit dating to October of 2020, when Meta sued BrandTotal for allegedly scraping data via a downloadable browser extension. Meta made several claims, including that BrandTotal violated Facebook's and Instagram's terms of service by using automated tools to gather data about users, and that BrandTotal violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- an anti-hacking law that prohibits anyone from accessing servers without authorization.



BrandTotal then countersued Meta for allegedly interfering with BrandTotal's contracts with advertisers.

BrandTotal, which collects data through an extension that people downloaded, said it only gathered data from people who enrolled through its platform, and who received compensation.

The company also argued that Facebook's scraping ban is unenforceable, on the theory that it violates public policy.

The ban “denies users the ability to control and monetize their own data, stifles competition in the social media analytics market, and creates an information monopoly regarding Facebook advertising -- all of which is contrary to well-established public policy principles,” BrandTotal wrote in papers filed with Spero in March.

In June, Spero said in a mixed ruling that BrandTotal violated Meta's terms of service, but left open whether he would issue an injunction prohibiting BrandTotal from accessing consumers' data.

BrandTotal hasn't yet responded to MediaPost's request for comment.

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