Facebook Sues Ukrainian Man Over Data Scraping and Sale Campaign

A complaint filed in the Northern District of California late last week has singled out Alexander Alexandrovich Solonchenko for scraping the Facebook user ID and phone number of almost 200 million users. The complaint asks for injunctive relief and damages for the conduct that Facebook Inc. claims violated its terms of service and constituted a breach of contract.

According to the filing, Solonchenko used a computer program to deliver automated requests to Facebook computers while “pretending” to be multiple Android devices connected to Facebook’s Messenger mobile app. His alleged collection of the publicly accessible information occurred between January 2018 and September 2019.

Beginning in October 2020, Solonchenko purportedly sold data on RaidForums.com, an online marketplace used to sell and distribute scraped, stolen, and leaked data. Reportedly, Solonchenko is also responsible for selling data from Ukraine’s largest commercial bank, the county’s largest private delivery service, and a French data analytics company.

The complaint sets forth multiple examples of Solonchenko’s dataset sale advertisements on RaidForums. Though in one post defendant claimed “leak not made by me,” Facebook avers that he still “offered information about how others could scrape data from Nova Posta through one of its Application Platform Interfaces and offered to provide others with a ‘python script,’ or computer code, to scrape the data.”

The complaint avers that Solonchenko used and controlled at least two Facebook accounts and thereby agreed to the Facebook Terms of Service, which bar data scraping. Facebook asserts that it has taken several measures to limit phone number scraping, including that Messenger Contact Importer no longer returns one-to-one lists of matched phone numbers, a feature that enabled Solonchenko to obtain millions of phone records.

The complaint states one claim for relief, breach of contract. The plaintiff seeks a restraining order forbidding the defendant from accessing its products, scraping and selling data obtained on its platforms, and an award of damages to compensate Facebook for the costs of investigating, remediating, and responding to Solonchenko’s conduct.

Facebook is represented by Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP.