Facebook sues man who stole and sold 178 million user phone numbers and IDs


Facebook has filed a lawsuit against a Ukrainian man for violating its terms of service. The man is accused of stealing and selling millions of phone numbers and user IDs from the social media giant’s database.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Facebook accuses Alexander Alexandrovich Solonchenko of creating a substantial number of virtual Android devices with different phone numbers and using them to access Facebook’s database using its own Messenger app.

Over 21 months between January 2018 and September 2019, Solonchenko purportedly took advantage of Facebook Messenger’s now-defunct Contact Importer feature. The feature allowed users to synchronize their phone address books and see which contacts had an account with The Social NetworkTM, presumably so they could contact them on Messenger rather than through other means.

But Solonchenko didn’t really want to chat with 178 million people. Rather – according to court documents [PDF], he performed phone number enumeration scraping and pulled together a database of the publicly accessible user IDs and phone numbers. He then – again allegedly – put them up for sale in early December 2020 on RaidForums.com, a marketplace for questionably obtained data, under the usernames “Solomame” and “Barak_Obama”.

“I collected this database [of Facebook user IDs and phone numbers] during 2018y (sic), it’s unique and nobody sales exact that leak (sic), I collected it by myself scanning [Facebook] day-by-day during a year (sic),” wrote Solonchenko on the nefarious website, according to Facebook’s complaint.

The Register

The lawsuit claims that because Mr. Solonchenko had multiple profiles of his own, he is bound by the terms of service, which the lawsuit claims he broke in doing what he did. It will be interesting to see if this lawsuit makes it through to trial.

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