Voyager Labs: Another NSO Group Moment?

January 6, 2022

Facebook has called out the significant but low-profile firm Voyager Labs, which creates and sells popular AI-based investigation tools, for helping the Los Angeles police department breach its terms of service. We learn from LaptrinhX News, “LAPD Allegedly Warned by Tech Giant to Stop Creating and Using Phony Accounts to Spy on Criminal Suspects.” The write-up reproduces the warning letter interspersed with commentary. The missive states Facebook learned of the dummy accounts from nonpartisan law and policy institute The Brennan Center for Justice. It warns:

“To the extent these practices are ongoing they violate our terms of service. While the legitimacy of such policies may be up to the LAPD, officers must abide by Facebook’s policies when creating accounts on our services. The Police Department should cease all activities on Facebook that involve the use of fake accounts, impersonation of others, and collection of data for surveillance purposes.”

The letter goes on to avow Facebook’s commitment to creating a safe haven for free expression and respect for users’ First Amendment rights. The line about concern for user safety comes across a bit strained amid the company’s current struggles, but no matter. We are more interested in the outfit that reportedly handed the LAPD a tool to make managing fake personas on Facebook easy. The letter states:

“It has also come to our attention that the LAPD has used a third-party vendor to collect data on our platforms regarding our users. Under our policies, developers are prohibited from using data obtained on our platforms for surveillance, including the processing of platform data about people, groups, or events for law enforcement or national security purposes. . . . We regard the above activity as a breach of Facebook’s terms and policies, and as such, we will disable any fake accounts that we identify and take action against third-party vendor conduct that violates our terms.”

Though Facebook did not name the vendor in its letter of admonishment, Breitbart reports The Brennan Center specified Voyager Labs as the culprit. That firm sells to government and law enforcement agencies and to private companies around the world. Founded in 2012 by a former Israeli intelligence agent of two decades, Voyager Labs keeps its R&D department in Tel Aviv, its headquarters in New York City, and satellite offices in Europe, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific.

Cynthia Murrell, January 6, 2022


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