The social media giant Facebook has been reportedly using a company founded by veterans of a secret cyber intel group within the Israeli Army to spy on Palestinian users and destroy competition.

Iran Press/America: The scandal involves Israeli firm Onavo which was bought by Facebook in 2013. The suit filed by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) a few days ago claims that Onavo's technology played a central role in Facebook's efforts to thwart its competitors.

Describing Onavo as a "user surveillance company", the FTC claimed that Facebook used the Israeli firm to learn about rival apps and determine which could be a potential threat to be neutralized before they get too influential. Concerns have been raised about how Facebook went about this, and questions are being asked about online security and the unregulated manner in which data is being gathered.

According to Haaretz, in 2018 Apple removed Onavo Protect – a free "secure connection" app that people could use while using Facebook – from its online store. It was discovered that the Onavo app violated Apple's privacy policy by collecting information about iPhone users and their online usage of apps that don't belong to Facebook.

In the same year, the British parliament published internal documents that showed that Facebook was monitoring users as a means of dealing with potential rivals. The documents included 200 pages of email correspondence dated 2012 to 2015 in which senior Facebook officials discussed how to conceal Onavo's ability to gather information about unwitting users.

Haaretz revealed that the owners of Onavo are veterans of the Israeli Army's cyber intel Unit 8200. A report in the Financial Times describes Unit 8200 as "a high-tech incubator that trains some of Israel's smartest young people but effectively excludes minority Arabs."

Recruits to the unit "snoop on Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank or naval and air blockade in the Gaza Strip." The FT report also cited Israeli sources saying that members of the unit used "coercive spying tactics" on innocent Palestinians, for the collection of embarrassing sexual, financial or other information. Such tactics were compared to those of the Stasi secret police in East Germany. According to the FT, this came as a shock to whistle-blowers from the unit.

America's TechCrunch newspaper also reported Wednesday that Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is suing Facebook over its use of Onavo in 2016 and 2017 to spy on users for commercial purposes.