Meta, formerly Facebook, bans seven 'surveillance for hire' firms

From CNET: Meta, formerly known as Facebook, said Thursday that it banned seven companies that sell software and services that have been used to spy on journalists, human rights activists, politicians and others in more than 100 countries.

The firms included Israeli-based Cobwebs Technologies, Cognyte, Black Cube and Bluehawk CI. Meta also took action against an Indian company called BellTroX, the North Macedonian firm Cytrox and an unknown entity in China, according to a report released by Meta's cybersecurity team.

The companies say their services and software are meant to help catch criminals and terrorists, but Meta said that after a months-long investigation the social media giant determined the products were also used to target people outside that group. Some of the tactics included creating fake accounts to search and view people's social media profiles and their list of friends, engaging with people using fictitious personas and tricking users into giving away their account information by getting them to click on malicious links.

"The 'surveillance-for-hire' entities we removed and described in this report violated multiple Community Standards and Terms of Service. Given the severity of their violations, we have banned them from our services," the report said. Meta didn't list the customers of the firms but said they included private individuals, law firms and businesses.

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