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Monday, January 30, 2023
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Tech Firm Accused of Providing Secret Surveillance Software to Police

Voyager’s surveillance software used the stolen data to enable its customers to profile their targets, including to 'uncover. . . behavior patterns,' 'infer human behavior,' and 'build a comprehensive presence' of the target...

(Ken Silva, Headline USAFacebook parent company Meta has filed a lawsuit against Israel-based Voyager Labs, accusing the tech company of developing surveillance software that secretly uses social media data to create profiles of individuals for the police and other customers.

Voyager Labs has been in the media spotlight in recent years for developing what can be described as “pre-crime” software. The non-profit Brennan Center for Justice released internal Voyager records last year, in which the company claims to be able to predict who may commit a future crime.

“Voyager Discover helps public safety investigators expand topic analysis to find under-the-radar leads that would otherwise never be found, and often indicates those most likely to act,” states an internal Voyager white paper, which the Brennan Center obtained through an open records request with the Los Angeles Police Department. “It is these very people who are of interest: They have the passion needed to act on their beliefs.”

In its lawsuit filed last week, Meta revealed more details about Voyager, alleging that the company secretly scraped data from users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, VK, Telegram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Tumblr, YouTube, Pinterest, Medium, and Vimeo.

According to Meta, Voyager’s surveillance software used the stolen data to enable its customers to profile their targets, including to “uncover. . . behavior patterns,” “infer human behavior,” and “build a comprehensive presence” of the target based on their “relationships, opinions, trends, activities and other signals,” and identify the scraping target’s “direct connections on a given social media platform” and “indirect connections.”

Meta claimed that Voyager used over 38,000 fake Facebook accounts to scrape the data of more than 600,000 people. Voyager designed its software to conceal its activity from Meta and others, the lawsuit says.

Meta said the entities who have received Voyager’s software include the LAPD. Meta did not name other potential customers.

Meta is suing Voyager for violating Facebook and Instagram’s terms of service. Along with seeking a monetary award, the social media giant seeks a court order barring Voyager from its platforms, as well as an injunction requiring the defendant to identify the location of all data obtained from Facebook and Instagram, delete all such data, and identify all entities with whom the data was shared.

Voyager has yet to respond to the lawsuit. The LAPD has declined to comment on the matter.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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