Allegations of Personal Data Flows from X.com to Au10tix

June 4, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

I work from my dinobaby lair in rural Kentucky. What the heck to I know about Hod HaSharon, Israel? The answer is, “Not much.” However, I read an online article called “Elon Musk Now Requiring All X Users Who Get Paid to Send Their Personal ID Details to Israeli Intelligence-Linked Corporation.”I am not sure if the statements in the write up are accurate. I want to highlight some items from the write up because I have not seen information about this interesting identify verification process in my other feeds. This could be the second most covered news item in the last week or two. Number one goes to Google’s telling people to eat a rock a day and its weird “not our fault” explanation of its quantumly supreme technology.

Here’s what I carried away from this X to Au10tix write up. (A side note: Intel outfits like obscure names. In this case, Au10tix is a cute conversion of the word authentic to a unique string of characters. Aw ten tix. Get it?)

Yes, indeed. There is an outfit called Au10tix, and it is based about 60 miles north of Jerusalem, not in the intelware capital of the world Tel Aviv. The company, according to the cited write up, has a deal with Elon Musk’s X.com. The write up asserts:

X now requires new users who wish to monetize their accounts to verify their identification with a company known as Au10tix. While creator verification is not unusual for online platforms, Elon Musk’s latest move has drawn intense criticism because of Au10tix’s strong ties to Israeli intelligence. Even people who have no problem sharing their personal information with X need to be aware that the company they are using for verification is connected to the Israeli government. Au10tix was founded by members of the elite Israeli intelligence units Shin Bet and Unit 8200.

Sounds scary. But that’s the point of the article. I would like to remind you, gentle reader, that Israel’s vaunted intelligence systems failed as recently as October 2023. That event was described to me by one of the country’s former intelligence professionals as “our 9/11.” Well, maybe. I think it made clear that the intelware does not work as advertised in some situations. I don’t have first-hand information about Au10tix, but I would suggest some caution before engaging in flights of fancy.

The write up presents as actual factual information:

The executive director of the Israel-based Palestinian digital rights organization 7amleh, Nadim Nashif, told the Middle East Eye: “The concept of verifying user accounts is indeed essential in suppressing fake accounts and maintaining a trustworthy online environment. However, the approach chosen by X, in collaboration with the Israeli identity intelligence company Au10tix, raises significant concerns. “Au10tix is located in Israel and both have a well-documented history of military surveillance and intelligence gathering… this association raises questions about the potential implications for user privacy and data security.” Independent journalist Antony Loewenstein said he was worried that the verification process could normalize Israeli surveillance technology.

What the write up did not significant detail. The write up reports:

Au10tix has also created identity verification systems for border controls and airports and formed commercial partnerships with companies such as Uber, PayPal and Google.

My team’s research into online gaming found suggestions that the estimable 888 Holdings may have a relationship with Au10tix. The company pops up in some of our research into facial recognition verification. The Israeli gig work outfit Fiverr.com seems to be familiar with the technology as well. I want to point out that one of the Fiverr gig workers based in the UK reported to me that she was no longer “recognized” by the Fiverr.com system. Yeah, October 2023 style intelware.

Who operates the company? Heading back into my files, I spotted a few names. These individuals may no longer involved in the company, but several names remind me of individuals who have been active in the intelware game for a few years:

  • Ron Atzmon: Chairman (Unit 8200 which was not on the ball on October 2023 it seems)
  • Ilan Maytal: Chief Data Officer
  • Omer Kamhi: Chief Information Security Officer
  • Erez Hershkovitz: Chief Financial Officer (formerly of the very interesting intel-related outfit Voyager Labs, a company about which the Brennan Center has a tidy collection of information related to the LAPD)

The company’s technology is available in the Azure Marketplace. That description identifies three core functions of Au10tix’ systems:

  1. Identity verification. Allegedly the system has real-time identify verification. Hmm. I wonder why it took quite a bit of time to figure out who did what in October 2023. That question is probably unfair because it appears no patrols or systems “saw” what was taking place. But, I should not nit pick. The Azure service includes a “regulatory toolbox including disclaimer, parental consent, voice and video consent, and more.” That disclaimer seems helpful.
  2. Biometrics verification. Again, this is an interesting assertion. As imagery of the October 2023 emerged I asked myself, “How did that ID to selfie, selfie to selfie, and selfie to token matches” work? Answer: Ask the families of those killed.
  3. Data screening and monitoring. The system can “identify potential risks and negative news associated with individuals or entities.” That might be helpful in building automated profiles of individuals by companies licensing the technology. I wonder if this capability can be hooked to other Israeli spyware systems to provide a particularly helpful, real-time profile of a person of interest?

Let’s assume the write up is accurate and X.com is licensing the technology. X.com — according to “Au10tix Is an Israeli Company and Part of a Group Launched by Members of Israel’s Domestic Intelligence Agency, Shin Bet” — now includes this

image

The circled segment of the social media post says:

I agree to X and Au10tix using images of my ID and my selfie, including extracted biometric data to confirm my identity and for X’s related safety and security, fraud prevention, and payment purposes. Au10tix may store such data for up to 30 days. X may store full name, address, and hashes of my document ID number for as long as I participate in the Creator Subscription or Ads Revenue Share program.

This dinobaby followed the October 2023 event with shock and surprise. The dinobaby has long been a champion of Israel’s intelware capabilities, and I have done some small projects for firms which I am not authorized to identify. Now I am skeptical and more critical. What if X’s identity service is compromised? What if the servers are breached and the data exfiltrated? What if the system does not work and downstream financial fraud is enabled by X’s push beyond short text messaging? Much intelware is little more than glorified and old-fashioned search and retrieval.

Does Mr. Musk or other commercial purchasers of intelware know about cracks and fissures in intelware systems which allowed the October 2023 event to be undetected until live-fire reports arrived? This tie up is interesting and is worth monitoring.

Stephen E Arnold, June 4, 2024

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