Facebook Reveals Hired Spy Companies Targeting 50,000 People
Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc has accused half a dozen private companies of spying on break-ins or other abuses, accusing them of a report released Thursday documenting the gang harassment of nearly 50,000 people on its platforms.
The company's battle against spy companies comes amid broader actions by US tech companies, US lawmakers, and President Joe Biden's administration against digital spy service providers, Most notably, Israeli spy firm NSO Group, which was blacklisted earlier this month after weeks of exposure. ... how its technology is used against civil society.
According to the meta-report, approximately 1,500 accounts have been banned, most of them fake accounts managed by seven organizations on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Meta said the companies target people in more than 100 countries.
Meta has not provided detailed information on how it identified detection companies, but it runs some of the world's largest social networks and communications and regularly demonstrates its ability to detect and remove malicious agents from its platforms.
Among them is the Black Cube of Israel, known to its spies on behalf of the Hollywood rapist Harvey Weinstein. Meta said a spy company was using strangers to talk to its targets online and collect their emails, "looking for future phishing attacks."
In a statement, Black Cube said it "does not cheat or deceive" and said the company has consistently ensured that "all activities of our agents are in full compliance with internal laws."
Other companies named by Meta include BellTroX, an Indian online mercenary company leaked last year by Reuters, and cyber watch company Citizen Lab, an Israeli company called Bluehawk CI, and a European company called Cytrox, all of which have been accused of piracy.
David Agranovich, cybersecurity officer at Meta, said he hoped Thursday's report "disrupts the market for location surveillance services." There have been signs that other social media companies are taking similar action when Twitter announced the removal of about 300 accounts a few hours after the meta announcement.
It remains to be seen whether the liquidation of the companies was more than a temporary failure. Two companies, Black Cube, and BellTroX, have recovered after being involved in previous spyware scandals.