Meta Boots 6 Private Spy Companies from Facebook and Instagram


Photo: Kelly Sullivan (Getty Images)

A creep purge of some of the internet’s most widely used social media platforms has just happened — a welcome turnaround for some 50,000 people who may have been targeted, not to mention the rest of us.

Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram, said in an announcement Thursday that it recently removed six private security firms from its platforms, along with a network of fake profiles used by an “unknown entity.” Meta says the companies have violated their Community Standards and Terms of Service and that “given the gravity of their violations” they are now banned from using its platforms. In a report published alongside the announcement, Meta officials provided details of the effort it had put in to get rid of the creepy companies.

“We took out seven entities that targeted people in more than 100 countries on the Internet; shared our findings with security researchers, other platforms and policy makers; issued Cease and Desist warnings; and also warned people we believe were being targeted to help them strengthen the security of their accounts,” Meta said of his efforts to kick the sniffers out.

The spy firms largely took advantage of networks of fake profiles, which they used to connect with certain users, integrate themselves into various “closed” communities and otherwise keep tabs on certain people — largely journalists and activists, the report said.

In total, Meta said, it has “warned about 50,000 people who we believe have been targeted by these malicious activities worldwide.” The company sent notifications to the users it thought had been affected by the surveillance.

Several of the companies mentioned in the report have been involved in visible privacy scandals. One of the companies, India-based BelltroX, was caught up earlier in accusations of ‘hack-for-hire’ schemes being used against journalists, environmentalists, politicians and bankers. Another company, Cytrox, is a spyware manufacturer in North Macedonia. On Thursday, researchers from Citizen Lab published a study detailing the company’s commercial malware, dubbed “Predator”, which is said to be able to infiltrate phones in a manner similar to the infamous NSO Group’s “Pegasus” Spyware.

NBC Reports that the rest of the companies on Meta’s shitlist — CobWebs Technologies, Bluehawk CI, Cognyte, and Black Cube — are all based in Israel, known as a node for high-tech security services.

Of this bunch, Black Cube is probably the most infamous. The shady company, staffed by former members of the Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies, was… infamously hired by Harvey Weinstein in 2016 to spy on his sexual abuse victims, as well as journalists investigating claims against the movie mogul. According to the report by the New Yorker, these agents were tasked with helping to “gather information … about dozens of individuals and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focused on their personal or sexual histories.”

Meta says it also shut down an “unknown entity” in China – a network of some 100 fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram that appeared to be engaged in “reconnaissance and social engineering activities before malicious payload was applied to its targets.” Delivered”. The network was likely used by “domestic law enforcement agencies in China,” the report claims.

Meta’s creep-purge comes at a time when both private industry and the US government seem to be cracking down on the surveillance industry. This is a welcome twist as there has been no shortage in recent years of evidence that such companies, while claiming to support legitimate law enforcement actions, are often leased out by wealthy and politically connected individuals as a means of attacking journalists, human rights activists, and virtually anyone else who wants to monitor them.

“While cyber mercenaries often claim that their services and surveillance ware are only intended to target criminals and terrorists, our own research, independent researchers, our industry peers and governments have shown that targeting is indeed arbitrary and so has journalists, dissidents and critics of authoritarian regimes. includes. , families of the opposition and human rights activists. In fact, for platforms like ours, there is no scalable way to discern the purpose or legitimacy of such targeting,” the report concludes.


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