Facebook Sues For Breach Of Contract Over Malicious Browser Extensions

Facebook filed a complaint on Thursday in the California State Superior Court in San Mateo County against Israeli company BrandTotal Ltd., and U.S.-based company Unimania, Inc. for the unauthorized collection of user data through a malicious browser extension, called UpVoice, and Ads Feed, respectively, which the defendants used to market and sell their services.  

Facebook claimed that since at least September 2019, the defendants “developed and distributed internet browser extensions (‘malicious extensions’) designed to improperly collect data from Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram.” The malicious extension was allegedly distributed on the Google Chrome Store. According to Facebook, “(a)nyone who installed one of Defendants’ malicious extensions essentially self-compromised their browsers to run automated programs designed to collect data about its user from specific websites.” This meant that when a user visited Facebook or Instagram with their compromised browser, the defendants “used the malicious extensions to connect to Facebook computers and collect or ‘scrape’ user profile information (including name user ID, gender, date of birth, relationship status, profile picture, and location information), advertisements and advertising metrics…and user Ad Preferences,” including user advertisement interest information and user interaction with ads; this information had both public and non-publicly viewable user data. The defendants created Facebook and Instagram accounts for their respective businesses and browser extensions, which the companies used to promote these malicious extensions and their services. Meanwhile, BrandTotal allegedly deceived consumers into believing that Facebook and others were “partnering sites,” which Facebook claimed is false. Facebook averred that the defendants used the maliciously collected data “to sell ‘marketing intelligence,’ and other services through’” its website, despite not being authorized to do so.

However, Facebook stated that the defendants accepted and were bound to Facebook and Instagram’s Terms and Policies, but their purported conduct has violated these terms and policies. Facebook asserted that in September 2020, it took various enforcement efforts against the defendants, such as disabling their accounts and pages and requesting for Google to disable and remove the extension, but Google has not done so. Facebook claimed that the defendants have unjustly enriched themselves and harmed Facebook as a result of their purported conduct. The causes of action against the defendants for their alleged conduct are breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

Facebook has sought a permanent injunction, an award for damages, an accounting and disgorgement of profits from the alleged conduct, pre- and post-judgment interest, and other relief.

Facebook is represented by Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP and Facebook’s Platform Enforcement and Litigation team.