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  • Khushboo Pareek

Meta spied on Snapchat, YouTube for user activities, reveal lawsuit documents

Meta used data analytics software to access and analyse user activities on rival platforms like Snapchat, Amazon, and YouTube, recently made public documents have revealed.

The revelations provide insight into how the tech giant rose to dominance in the fiercely competitive social media industry.

The software in question came from a company called Onavo, which Meta, then Facebook, acquired in 2013.

The social media giant shut it down in 2019 amid controversy following allegation that Facebook paid teenagers to utilize Onavo's software to collect user data.

In 2020, two Facebook users initiated a class action lawsuit against Meta in the US District Court for the Northern District of California accusing the firm of anticompetitive conduct and exploitation of user data.

The documents which revealed the information were submitted by plaintiffs' attorney Brian J Dunne in May 2023.

The recently made public documents shed light on Facebook's use of Onavo's software to spy on competitors, notably Snapchat.

According to documents, the Onavo team initiated a project "Ghostbusters," a nod to Snapchat's logo and devised "kits" compatible with iOS and Android, designed to intercept traffic for specific sub-domains.

The interception enabled them to decipher encrypted traffic, thus gaining insights into in-app usage.

The documents revealed that similar tactics were employed on YouTube from 2017 to 2018 and on Amazon in 2018.

According to the documents, the programme's intended and actual outcome was to undermine competition, particularly Snapchat, which was a budding competitor to Facebook's social advertising platform at the time.

Meta significantly outweighs Snapchat in terms of both audience size and financial standing.

Meta is currently under investigation by the European Union for antitrust concerns.

It's one of the six major tech companies identified as "gatekeepers" in the digital economy according to the newly enacted Digital Markets Act in the EU.






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