Facebook bans Russian facial recognition firm

“We know everything about everybody.”

That’s the saying emblazoned at the top of the Russian website SocialDataHub, a Kremlin-linked company banned from Facebook last week for improperly harvesting user data.

SocialDataHub and its sister company Fubutech build facial recognition software and other applications for the Russian government. These are not fly-by-night operations; the companies have been around for at least four years and provide banks and insurance companies with ratings of customers based on their social media profiles.

If that isn’t creepy enough, Fubutech has amassed a database of Russian citizens and their photographs from scraped data that it provides to the Russian government. Making matters worse, the company denies awareness of how the information is being used by Vladimir Putin’s government, no friend to human rights.

“We don’t know exactly what they do with it,” Fubutech’s CEO Artur Khachuyan told the New York Times.

In all, Facebook quietly took down 66 accounts, pages and apps tied to companies doing facial recognition for the Russian government last week.

While we’re unaware of this software being deployed against U.S. citizens, the Kremlin’s interest in amassing such information and using it to monitor, surveil, or spy on anyone in its reach is chilling. Added to Russia’s sophisticated Internet troll operation, their cyberhacking of U.S. electric utilities and state election systems, and even more aggressive actions in Georgia, Ukraine, and other European nations, it further paints Putin’s regime as a ruthless enemy of freedom.

“We know everything about everybody” — it’s the old Communist-era joke about the Party watching you, except without the joke.