London Daily

Focus on the big picture.
Saturday, Feb 04, 2023

French defense firm profiles potential hires using their social media pages

French defense firm profiles potential hires using their social media pages

Dassault Aviation asked a cybersurveillance startup to investigate three people of North African origins.

The report was embellished with red typeface, warning signs and a red traffic light.

Researchers at the French cybersurveillance firm Altrnativ had investigated a candidate for an entry-level job at the French military manufacturer Dassault Aviation and decided she was suspicious.

The report described the woman as “a strong and true risk for Dassault's security and safety” and recommended the defense company “send a report to French security services.”

Its evidence: The woman’s “social media connections.”

The report, contained in a trove of internal Altrnativ documents seen by POLITICO, shines a spotlight on the rapidly growing cybersurveillance industry, in which companies scour the internet for information on their clients’ rivals, critics and employees, with little or no regulatory oversight.

With the proliferation of online information, especially on social media, it's an industry privacy watchdogs and legal experts say has worrying implications for minority rights and the sanctity of personal information. “There’s a problem in the business model of these companies, for individuals to be able to assert rights over them, and to be able to control how they are labeled,” said Ravi Naik, a lawyer and legal director of AWO agency, a law firm specialized in data protection, noting the industry incentivizes the collection of personal data.

“They exist to create profiles on individuals without those individuals knowing,” he said. "The more information they have, the better their sales pitch is to potential clients.” The 18-page document Altrnativ produced in the summer of 2021 for Dassault described the job applicant, a graduate student of North African heritage, as a “sympathizer” of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Islamist organization.

To back up this claim, the dossier reported the woman had “liked” the Facebook pages of two well-known and established Muslim NGOs that were banned by the French government in 2020, and the page belonging to the founder of one of them, Idriss Sihamedi, who was found guilty in 2021 of cyber harassment for bullying people on Twitter.

Harvesting this kind of information to screen employees can be problematic under European Union law. While governments can scour such material to approve security clearance, companies must follow strict privacy rules, particularly when it relates to topics such as religion.

The woman being investigated had also liked the French Muslim community radio Beur FM and the U.K.-based news outlet Middle East Eye, both mainstream media outlets. The report also said she “followed” (as opposed to “liked”) Tariq Ramadan, an Islamic scholar who was French media’s go-to conservative Muslim until he was accused of rape by multiple women in 2017. She also “followed” Medine, a popular French rapper of Algerian descent known for his political lyrics.

The report did not establish when the job applicant had liked the Facebook pages, or why she had elected to follow them.

It did however include a screenshot of an Instagram post showing North African pastries she had baked for an Eid al-Fitr party organized by a student association promoting Arab culture. It also noted she spent a semester abroad at a university in a large Muslim country.

This, the report warned, “raises questions on her motivations and possible collusion with foreign intelligence. This point is not yet formally demonstrated and still needs to be assessed.”

Altrnativ advised Dassault to ask the applicant why she studied abroad when France has “many universities offering [language] classes and [her field of study].”

The woman was not hired by Dassault, which did not respond to a request for comment.


'Weak signal’

Digital rights watchdogs said the growing use of personal online data by companies making important decisions, like whom to hire, risked reinforcing biases and impinging on privacy.

“The problem we often have with data scraping with a minimum of analysis is that we reinforce a discrimination that already exists,” said Estelle Massé, an expert in data protection at the digital rights advocacy group Access Now.

“It’s not just an invasion of privacy, it also means that what you do online can be used at any time,” she added. “That means we no longer have the right to make mistakes in our lives, to think one thing and evolve."

The constant collection of data is creating an "Orwellian world” and a “feeling of constant surveillance,” said Max Schrems, founder of privacy rights group noyb (None of Your Business).

“There’s a larger chilling effect if people feel like they cannot ‘like’ something online because in the future it might get them out of a job,” he added. “Even when it doesn’t happen, people get the feeling it could and therefore limit their free speech online.”

The job applicant wasn’t the only person Altrnativ investigated for Dassault. The Altrnativ documents include four other reports. One was a due diligence investigation of a partner company’s anti-corruption policies. Another concerned a court case involving potential business partners. Neither of these included information on the subjects’ families or personal opinions.

The two other reports did. Like the investigation into the job applicant, both looked for “possible collusion with foreign intelligence” and targeted people of North African descent.

One verbose 14-page report on a French-Algerian engineer working for Dassault found no “specifics likely to amount to an alert signal indicating collusion with a foreign intelligence service.” But it noted the engineer is a member of a Facebook group for people interested in Algerian news.

This is a “weak signal,” the report said. It advised Dassault to be careful if the “social situation in Algeria were to become more serious, considering her frequent trips to Algeria.” (Altrnativ offered no evidence for the trips.)

The dossier also included pictures of the engineer’s children, taken from the Facebook page of her husband, who was also profiled.

The last report profiled a French-Moroccan job applicant for an engineering position at Dassault. It featured his Instagram username, his resumé and the name, picture and phone number of his wife. It also included a picture of him, part of a corny photo montage from 2007, apparently made by his then-girlfriend when he was a teenage boy. “I love you forever,” the caption says.

The investigators did not find any evidence of involvement with foreign intelligence.

The three people investigated by Altrnativ declined to comment on the reports. One of them asked not to be identified for fear it would hurt their professional future.

In an interview with POLITICO, Eric Leandri, Altrnativ's CEO, denied the people his company investigated for foreign collusion were chosen because of their ethnic background. “There’s no racism in my house,” he said. “There is no targeting. Nothing to do with origins or ethnicity.”


Privacy laws

The three reports may have violated European privacy laws, according to legal experts interviewed by POLITICO.

Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, also known as GDPR, subjects of investigations like these should be told their data is being used, and how it’s being used.

The children whose faces appear in the report are also individuals with their own data rights, said Ravi Naik, the lawyer and legal director of AWO agency. “The processing of the child’s data is very, very problematic, particularly where the purpose of processing their data seems so unclear,” he said. “It can’t be for the purposes of any kind

of special investigation, as it is not an investigation into those children. It seems purely out of a morbid interest, and to gather as much data as possible on the target. I cannot see that ever being justified, and would hope regulators act.”

The EU’s privacy laws are particularly strict when it comes to handling information about political views or religion — even when the information being compiled is technically public. One exception is if the processing “relates to personal data which are manifestly made public” by the individual, such as their religion, explained Naik. But that can be tricky to determine.

“If you put on Facebook “I am a Hindu,” and then somebody processes that information, that would seem to be covered by the ‘manifestly made public’ exemption. But if I just start tweeting about Diwali, have I made my religion public? The question on whether it’s lawful to process this information is far from straightforward,” Naik said.

In the report on the job applicant, Altrnativ noted under the heading “Religious involvement” that she used a picture of a mosque as her cover photo on Linkedin.

Some sensitive job positions “can justify looking a bit further at the individual, and this can be done through qualified contractors, but the quantity of information needs to be proportionate with the position,” said Valérie Aumage, a French lawyer and head of the IT department at PWC Société d’Avocats. “You need to justify yourself to the employee that it’s necessary to collect information about their family.”One possible justification for an investigation is if an employee will be handling classified or otherwise secret data. However, in this case, the law is clear: “it’s always performed by public authorities,” said Eric Delisle, head of the employment, solidarity, sport and housing department at CNIL, the French data protection agency.

The three reports don’t make mention of security clearance.

Asked specifically whether Altrnativ broke the GPDR, Eric Leandri did not reply.

Newsletter

Related Articles

London Daily
Close
0:00
0:00
Charlie Munger, calls for a ban on cryptocurrencies in the US, following China's lead
You're Beautiful - James Blunt (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Shell reports highest profits in 115 years
You Are So Beautiful
EU found a way to use frozen Russian funds
Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version
First generation unopened iPhone set to fetch more than $50,000 at auction.
An old French tune (by Georges Brassens) Pomplamoose ft. John Schroeder
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
Sattahip Motor Show 20
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
SONATE AU CLAIR DE LUNE - Moonlight sonata
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
A kiss to build a dream on
What is ChatGPT?
Wiz Khalifa - See You Again ft. Charlie Puth, Furious
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
China is opening up for foreign investors.
Mean Blues
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
La Chansonnette
Germany confirms it will provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks
Pattaya Addicts
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Franz Liszt - Liebestraum - Love Dream
Opinion | Israel’s Supreme Court Claims a Veto on Democracy
Dream a little dream of me
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Tu Vuo' Fa' L'Americano - Hetty & the Jazzato Band
Who’s Threatening Israeli Democracy?
Unchained Melody sung like you've NEVER heard!
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
Dave Brubeck - Take Five
China's first population drop in six decades
Édith Piaf - Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien (Sofie)
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
Rondo Alla Turca
Israelis rally in three cities against Netanyahu legal reforms
Kiss of fire
China's foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong urges British gov't to stop the biased and double standards Hong Kong report
Ed Sheeran - Perfect (Amadeus violin cover instrumental)
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
Tom Jones - I´ll Never Fall In Love Again 1967, 1989, 2001
Japan prosecutors indict man for ex-PM Shinzo Abe murder
Israel Cachao López - Guajira Clásica
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
Edward Maya - Stereo Love (feat. Vika Jigulina) (Extended Mix)
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
Strauss - Radetzky March - Karajan
Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, dies aged 54
La vie en rose
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Despacito (Piano Cover) - Peter Bence
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
The Temptations - My Girl (Smokey Robinson Tribute) 2006 Kennedy Cent
Dirty bomb fears as URANIUM is found in cargo at Heathrow
Orlando Cachaito Lopez Redencion
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
Edith Piaf - NON, JE NE REGRETTE RIEN
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
RADETZKY MARCH-2008-Wien, New Year Concert
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
Only you (And you alone)
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
Beautiful in White x Canon in D (Piano Cover by Riyandi Kusuma)
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
Strangers In The Night
UK chaos: Hong Kong emigrants duped by false prospectus
Charles Aznavour - La Boheme
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Summer time
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Sting and Stevie Wonder - Fragile (from Sting's 60th birthday concert)
Saudi Arabia’s female ambassadors: Who are the five women representing the Kingdom?
Aux Champs Elysees
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
Stand By Me - Ben E. King (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
La Mer (Beyond the Sea) – Avalon Jazz Band
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
She
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
Nathalie Song by Enzo Petrachi Stjepan Hauser Cello
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
Shape of My Heart - Sting (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
FTX assets worth $3.5bn held by Bahamas securities regulator
Radiohead - Creep
A Republican congressman-elect is under investigation in New York after he admitted he lied about his education and work experience.
Quizás,Quizás,Quizás - Andrea Bocelli - Jennifer Lopez
Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has died at the age of 82.
Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps - Multi-Couples
Hong Kong to scrap almost all its Covid rules
Pentatonix Havana
EU calls screening of travellers from China unjustified
Paula Cole - Autumn Leaves
US imposes Covid testing for visitors from China
Oscar Benton Bensonhurst Blues
Clashes erupt in central Paris after shooting at a Kurdish cultural center
OH NANANA vs ABUSADAMENTE
Nina Simone - ”I Put A Spell On You”. Vezi aici cum cântă Jeremy Ragsd
NIGHTWISH - The Phantom Of The Opera
Motorshow 2016 Tanjay Negros Oriental
Monica Bellucci - Ti Amo
Michael Jackson - Billie Jean Milena The Voice France 2018
Michael Buble (Help Me Make It Through The Night) feat Loren Allred
Memories Canon In D - Maroon 5 (Boyce Avenue piano acoustic cover)
Matteo Simoni - Marina
Maroon 5 - One More Night
Maroon 5 - Memories
Mark Knopfler - Brothers In Arms (Berlin 2007 Live)
Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - Romeo And Juliet (Real Live Roadrunni
Marina, Marina - The LUCKY DUCKIES intimist live concert at Guimarães
Major Lazer & DJ Snake – Lean On Mauranne The Voice France 2016
Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet - Joslin - Henri Mancini, Nino Rota
LoLa & Hauser - Love Story
Linkin Park Jay-Z - Numb Encore (Live 8 2005)
Hallelujah Mennel Ibtissem, The Voice France Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen - Dance Me to the End of Love
Leonard Cohen & Natasha Rostova - Dance me to the end of love
La casa de papel - Bella Ciao
La Camisa Negra
L'italiano (Toto Cutugno) - The Gypsy Queens
Juanes - La Camisa Negra
Jonathan and Charlotte - Britain's Got Talent 2012 Live Semi Final - U
John Powell - Assassin's Tango
Joe Cocker - You Can Leave Your Hat On (LIVE in Dortmund)
Joe Cocker - Unchain My Heart 2002 Live
Joe Cocker - A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Jay Z & Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind LIVE
Jason Mraz - Im Yours (live)
Jarrod Radnich - Bohemian Rhapsody - Virtuosic Piano Solo
James Blunt - You're Beautiful
James Blunt - You're Beautiful & Bonfire Heart (Live at The Nobel Peac)
If You Go Away - Helen Merrill & Stan Getz (Tribute to Virna Lisi)
I'LL BE MISSING YOU
I Say a Little Prayer
Hotel California ( Eagles ) 1994 Live
Historia de un amor - Luz Casal. Vezi interpretarea Biancăi Sumanariu
Here Comes The Sun - The Beatles (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover) on Spot
Heart - Stairway to Heaven Led Zeppelin - Kennedy Center Honors
HAVANA by Camila Cabello Zumba Pre Cooldown TML Crew Kramer Pastra
HAUSER and Señorita - I Will Always Love You
HAUSER - Waka Waka
HAUSER - Sway
HAUSER - Lambada
HAUSER - Historia de un Amor
HAUSER - Despacito
Great Pretender
Georgia May Foote & Giovanni Pernice Samba to 'Volare' - Strictly Come
Gary Moore - Still Got The Blues
GIPSY KINGS VOLARE Penelope Cruz
Fugees - Killing Me Softly With His Song
French Latino - Historia de un Amor
For A Few Dollars More The Danish National Symphony Orchestra (Live)
Flashdance • What a Feeling • Irene Cara
Filip Rudan - “Someone You Loved” Audicija 4 The Voice Hrvatska Sez
Eric Clapton - Wonderful Tonight
Enya - Only Time
Enrique Iglesias - Bailando (English Version) ft. Sean Paul
Enrique Iglesias - Bailamos
Elena Yerevan Historia de un amor
Ed Sheeran - Shape of You (Official Music Video)
Ed Sheeran - Perfect Symphony [with Andrea Bocelli]
Ed Sheeran - Perfect (Official Music Video)
Easy On Me - Adele (Boyce Avenue 90’s style piano acoustic cover) on S
ERA - Ameno
ELENA YEREVAN- Cancion Del Mariachi-IN STUDIO-2017 DPR
Dust In The Wind - Kansas (Boyce Avenue acoustic cover)
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Despacito x Shape Of You - Pentatonix
Deep Purple - Child In Time - Live (1970)
David Foster When A Man Loves A WomanIt's A Mans World (SealMichael Bo
Dance me to the end of Love ( Pi-Air Design )
Coolio - Gangsta's Paradise (feat. L.V.) [Official Music Video]
Conquest Of Paradise (Vangelis), played on Böhm Emporio organ
Cielito Lindo
Chico & The Gypsies - Bamboleo
Canción Del Mariachi - Antonio Banderas, Los Lobos • Desperado
Camila Cabello - Havana (Audio) ft. Young Thug
Camila Cabello - Havana ( cover by J.Fla )
California Dreamin' - The Mamas & The Papas José Feliciano (Boyce Ave
Buster Benton - Money Is The Name of The Game
Hallelujah Pentatonix
Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy (Official Music Video)
Bob Dylan - Knockin' On Heaven's Door Emilia The Voice Kids France
Besame Mucho - Cesaria Evora
Ben E. King - Stand by Me Sax Cover Alexandra Ilieva Thomann
Bella Ciao
Bella Ciao - INSTRUMENTAL
Beautiful in White x Canon in D (Piano Cover by Riyandi Kusuma)
Bad Romance - Vintage 1920's Gatsby Style Lady Gaga Cover ft. Ariana Savalas & Sarah Reich(1)
BELLA CIAO 2020 - KARAOKE ITALIANO
BAMBOLEO - Gipsy Kings • Antonio Banderas, Katya Virshilas
BAILANDO (original)
Awesome Ukrainian yodeler - SOFIA SHKIDCHENKO (with English subtitles)
Avicii - The Nights
Atom - The Great Gig in the Sky
Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Official Ly
Antonio Banderas - Cancion del Mariachi (Desperado)
André Rieu - Zorba's Dance (Sirtaki)
André Rieu - Can't Help Falling In Love
André Rieu & Mirusia - Ave Maria
Andrew Reyes Elton John - Don't Let The Sun Go Down The Voice 2020 (
Andreas Kümmert Whiter Shade Of Pale The Voice of Germany 2013 Showd
And I Love You So
All About That Bass - Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version
Alan Walker - Faded (Piano Cover)
Ain't No Sunshine -- Bill Withers (cover by Canen 12 y.o.)
African music
Adriana Vidović - “Creep” Audicija 4 The Voice Hrvatska Sezona 3
Adriana Vidović - “Believer” Nokaut 3 The Voice Hrvatska Sezona 3
A Fistful of Dollars - The Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Tuva
4 Beautiful Soundtracks Relaxing Piano [10min]
2CELLOS - Whole Lotta Love vs. Beethoven 5th Symphony [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
2CELLOS - Smooth Criminal (Live at Suntory Hall, Tokyo)
2CELLOS - Smells Like Teen Spirit [Live at Sydney Opera House]
2CELLOS - Despacito [OFFICIAL VIDEO]
13 Year Old Girl Playing Il Silenzio (The Silence) - André Rieu
094.All About That Bass
00 - SADNESS PART 1
(Ghost) Riders In the Sky (American Outlaws Live at Nassau Coliseum, 1
(Everything I Do) I Do It For You - Bryan Adams (Boyce Avenue ft. Conn
What a wonderful world
Moon river
×