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Russians collected Americans’ personal data through social media

Russians collected Americans’ personal data through social media
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Russian agents posed as Americans to collect personal information from U.S. citizens on Facebook and other social media platforms during the 2016 election, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Facebook records viewed by the Journal confirm that Russian agents posed as organizations promoting African-American businesses in order to gain personal information from black business owners through social media conversations, building registries containing personal information of Americans across the country.

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The newspaper reports that groups such as "BlackMattersUS" and "Black4Black" were among hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts set up by Russian agents during the election in an attempt to influence American politics.

“I was actually really excited about the opportunity,” Cleveland-area small business owner Ajah Hales told the Journal.

“We’re all just trying to make an honest living here,” she added. “I would feel comfortable knowing that whoever’s behind this and whatever information they were pursuing has been shut down.”

Maurice Bright, a fitness instructor located in Orlando, Fla., told the Journal the group was particularly interested in names of his students, as well as other information such as email addresses.

“They were really adamant about getting names,” Bright said, adding that he refused to provide the group with more information.

Facebook launched a tool in December to help users determine if they interacted with Russian propaganda content during the election, but the Journal reports that the tool does not notify users if they contacted a Russian agent impersonating an American.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE on Tuesday vowed to prevent Russia from interfering in this year's midterm elections, despite his past claims that Russia had "no effect" on his election victory over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMueller's team asking Manafort about Roger Stone: report O'Rourke targets Cruz with several attack ads a day after debate GOP pollster says polls didn't pick up on movement in week before 2016 election MORE.

“We're doing a very, very deep study and coming out with very strong suggestions on the 2018 election,” he said.

The news comes after the U.S.'s top cyber official admitted that Trump had not directed him specifically to counter Russian meddling ahead of the 2018 midterms later this year.

“I haven’t been granted any additional authorities,” said U.S. Cyber Command chief and National Security Agency head Adm. Michael Rogers.

Rogers added that he had directed the agency to "begin some specific work" related to countering Russian meddling, but did not go into detail.