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Meta Discovered Some “On Commission Surveillance” Agencies On Facebook: What Are They?

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The privacy issues related to social networks are obvious, so that Facebook will make authentication mandatory to two factors for many accounts for security purposes. Today, Meta has released a blog post in which it claims to have banned seven companies of “surveillance on commission” who monitored 50,000 users worldwide.

The news was given by Meta itself, which refers to these companies as “surveillance for-hire”: these companies are paid by third parties to spy on some subjects on social media, using facial recognition software and algorithms for analysis of social feeds to rebuild them

Meta confirmed that among the companies banned from Facebook there are Cobweb, Cognyte, Black Cube, Bluehawk CI, BelltroX and Cytrox. Alongside these, Meta discovered a Chinese company that was developing a “surveillanceware”: it is a company that is still unknown, but its software had the ability to constantly analyze the profiles of a potentially very large number of users without human intervention.

In total, according to Meta, the companies controlled 50,000 people before the ban. Along with agencies, 1,000 accounts of users and bots connected to them have been blocked by Facebook. It is not clear who is behind these companies, but according to Meta there may also be the spout of intelligence agencies all over the world: surveillance software on commission, in fact, seems to have been used also by “domestic law enforcement” agencies of various countries

The commission-based surveillance industry has grown a lot in recent years, although it has often underestimated: according to Meta Chief Security Officer Nathaniel Gleicher, the attention of the public has been focused almost only on hackers, their groups for years.

In addition, according to Gleicher, “the committee surveillance industry is also characterised by the fact that its objectives are chosen without any discrimination between one and the other.” Often, in fact, companies justify themselves talking about security purposes and anti-terrorism, but Gleicher said that “cyber mercenaries often say that their services and surveillance are used to track criminals and terrorists. […] Our research has shown that the objectives are indiscriminate and include journalists, dissidents, critics of authoritarian regimes, human rights activists and families of political opponents.” The last identification of a cybermercenaries group was last November, when Russian hackers from Void Balaur were discovered.

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