Facebook today filed a lawsuit against two companies for creating and distributing malicious browser extensions that obtained data from users without authorization from Facebook and Instagram.
The two companies are behind UpVoice and Ads Feed, two Chrome extensions that were available from the official Chrome Web Store from September to November 2019. During that time they garnered more than 5.000 and 10.000 installations, respectively.
"BrandTotal is attracting users to install the UpVoice extension from the Google Chrome Store by offering in-store payments in the form of online gift cards, and claiming that users who installed the extension can influence brand marketing decisions and corporate strategies "multi-billion dollars," Facebook said in court documents filed today.
"Similarly, the Ads Feed was promoting expansion to the Google Chrome Store, claiming that users were joining an elite group that influences multibillion-dollar corporate advertising decisions!"
However, Facebook claims that, despite their descriptions, both extensions are malicious and were designed to collect public and private data from users' online accounts.
According to documents, Facebook claims that the UpVoice extension collects data from users' profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube.
Similarly, Unimania collects data from users on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Twitter and YouTube.
Data typically includes user profile information (name, user ID, gender, date of birth, relationship status, and location information), ads, and ad metrics (ad name, ad image and text, and metrics and user interaction metrics), and User Ad Preferences (Ad Interest Information).
According to Facebook, the data obtained illegally through the two extensions were sold to a marketing company through BrandTotal.
Facebook says both extensions use almost identical code and believes the two companies are the same.
"The defendants shared common employees," Facebook said in a statement.
For example, the Chief Product Officer and General Manager of BrandTotal (Ex. 5), created Facebook accounts in the name of Unimania and Ads Feed, and the Chief Technology Officer of BrandTotal and co-founder (Ex. 5) also managed Unimania accounts on Facebook ”
Both extensions are still available for download.