Facebook Says Russian Firms ‘Scraped’ Data, Some for Facial Recognition

“All in Russia know about us for minimum four years,” he said. “I don’t know why that Facebook sent that only now.”

He said Fubutech scraped data from the web, particularly Google search and the Russian search engine Yandex, to build a database of Russian citizens and their images that the government can use for facial recognition. “We don’t know exactly what they do with it,” he said.

“Maybe government clients connect our software to C.C. cameras,” Mr. Khachuyan said, referring to closed-circuit cameras. “Maybe they connect it to social profiles.”

Mr. Khachuyan compared Fubutech to Palantir, the Palo Alto, Calif., tech company that does data analysis for the American government. At one point in a 30-minute phone interview, he said the Russian Defense Ministry was a client, but later said he could not name Fubutech’s government clients.

His other firm, SocialDataHub, works with insurers and banks to evaluate potential customers. Between 30,000 and 50,000 Russian citizens have given SocialDataHub permission to analyze their Facebook profiles to assign a score between zero and 10, which insurers and banks use to help set rates or approve credit cards.

“If you’re a bad client, you have zero to three,” Mr. Khachuyan said.

He said his companies, which share 52 employees in Moscow, complied with Facebook policies; they use Facebook data only when it is public and available on Google search, or if the user has granted them permission. He said the techniques were also legal in Russia.

“It’s a trick in our federal law to use that data, but that works only with Russian citizens,” Mr. Khachuyan said.

At the top of the SocialDataHub’s website, there is a single line: “We know everything about everybody.”