Meta Reveals 50,000 Journalists, Activists Accounts were Spied on

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Meta has admitted that at least 50,000 user accounts might have been spied on by seven commercial “surveillance-for-hire” schemes located in 100 countries.

Among the targeted accounts were those of journalists, government critics, human rights activists, and families of opposition. The tech giant investigated the matter for a month and identified the spying groups before removing them from Facebook.

“These companies are part of a sprawling industry that provides intrusive software tools and surveillance services indiscriminately to any customer — regardless of who they target or the human rights abuses they might enable,”Meta’s director of threat disruption, David Agranovich, and head of cyber espionage investigations, Mike Dvilyanski wrote.

Read: Fears of Cambridge Analytica Style Manipulation of Ugandan Election as Museveni Hires Israeli ICT Firm for Campaigns

“This industry ‘democratizes’ these threats, making them available to government and non-government groups that otherwise wouldn’t have these capabilities.”

Six of the seven companies were identified in a more extensive danger analysis issued by Meta, with one labeled as unknown. Cobwebs Technologies, Cognyte, Black Cube, and Bluehawk CI are based in Israel the other three are situated in China, India, and North Macedonia.

“The disclosure by Facebook of actions it has taken to disrupt and remove seven private firms selling surveillance services to regimes that abuse human rights, makes it abundantly clear that more must be done to stop this mercenary marketplace,”  a US Congressman, Adam Schiff said in a statement.

Read also: How to Disable Location Tracking on Facebook

“By enabling indiscriminate surveillance against journalists and political dissidents, among others, these companies pose a clear threat to human rights.”

This is not the first data scandal rocking Meta. In 2017, controversial firm Cambridge Analytica influenced elections in more than 68 countries. The company was part of a much bigger global operation that worked with governments, intelligence agencies, commercial companies and political campaigns to manipulate and influence people.

The company is said to have developed a sophisticated infrastructure of shell companies that were designed to funnel dark money into politics, like in the case of Ukraine in 2017.

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Written by Vanessa Murrey

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