AU10TIX is a subsidiary of ICTS, founded by former agents of Israel’s Shin Bet general security service.
X, formerly known as Twitter, will soon require its XBlue subscribers to submit biometric data, including a selfie and a government-issued ID, to Israeli company AU10TIX as part of the verification process.
The alarming development has ignited controversy and raised serious concerns over digital privacy and data security, with activists pointing towards Israel’s long record of rights abuses and surveillance of journalists, activists and politicians around the world.
AU10TIX, a subsidiary of ICTS, was founded by former agents of Israel’s Shin Bet general security service, further deepening the concerns.
Mona Shtaya, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), focusing on surveillance and digital rights in the MENA region, expressed her concerns in an interview with Doha News.
“This is alarming. Hiring a company with ties to former secret intelligence, Shin Bet, puts us all at risk. This move threatens to fortify and weaponise our digital realms. A fate Palestinians already endure due to the ongoing military occupation. If X proceeds, it’s a disaster in the making for all its users.”
Many users of X have voiced dissatisfaction with the choice of the company to handle their data. These concerns are exacerbated by the fact that numerous data breaches have been reported in recent times.
“While X, formally Twitter, claim to use our data for account verification, we must be aware of how others could exploit it, violating our right to privacy,” said Shtaya.
AU10TIX is not new to the field of identification and security. In the 1980s and 90s, it played a pivotal role in creating identity verification systems for airports and border controls. With the advent of the internet, the company expanded into “digital spaces” in 2002, and now includes high-profile clients such as Uber, PayPal, and Google.
In November 2022, monthly subscription fees were implemented for verified Twitter users, and verification was subsequently extended to any account with a validated phone number and an active subscription to a qualifying Twitter Blue plan.
As part of these changes, Twitter announced on 1 April that it would start phasing out its legacy verification programme, including the removal of legacy verified checkmarks.
These alterations provoked concerns that the platform could become more susceptible to impersonation, thus granting false credibility to accounts disseminating misinformation.
In an effort to address these fears, the platform introduced two new forms of verification: gold checkmarks for verified organisations and grey checkmarks for government-affiliated accounts.
Then, in a major shift, Elon Musk announced in July 2023 that Twitter would undergo a rebranding and henceforth be known as X. The latest X verification process, demanding a selfie and a government-issued ID, is an effort by the company to fortify the platform against impersonation and fraud.
However, the risks outweigh that for the platform’s users.
“Israeli tech firms dominate the surveillance industry worldwide. With 8 out of 28 Israeli surveillance companies being led by ex-military people. It’s time to connect the dots before we unwittingly fuel military agendas with our data,” added Shtaya.