Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has alerted some 50,000 users it believes were targeted by seven surveillance-for-hire entities based in China, Israel, India, and Macedonia.
The global surveillance-for-hire industry targets specific people to compromise their devices and accounts, and collect intelligence. While companies often claim they only target criminals, a Meta investigation has reportedly found the industry's targeting is "indiscriminate and includes journalists, dissidents, critics of authoritarian regimes, families of opposition and human rights activists.
To take action, Meta has disabled seven entities that targeted people online in more than 100 countries; shared its findings with researchers, other platforms, and policymakers; sent cease-and-desist warnings; and sent notifications to those who are believed to be targeted.
"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," company officials wrote in a blog post on the news.
Entities Meta acted against include Cobwebs Technologies, Black Cube, Cytrox, BelltroX, Bluehawk CI, and Cytrox. Meta also reports it removed about 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts that were linked to "an unidentified entity in China" responsible for creating surveillance software for Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, macOS X, and Solaris operating systems.
Read the full blog post for more details.