Barely two weeks before the global expose on the alleged misuse of the spyware, Israel’s NSO Group in a statement had acknowledged that “the customers for Pegasus are states and state agencies” who may be “tempted to limit fundamental freedoms”.
The NSO statement prepared on June 30, said NSO Group has 60 customers — states and state agencies — in 40 countries. Out of these, 51 percent are intelligence agencies, 38 percent are law enforcement entities and 11 percent military, The Indian Express said in a report.
The company has grabbed headlines after an investigative report found a list of more 50,000 phone numbers in which more than 1,000 people in 50 countries, including journalists, politicians, government officials, chief executives and human rights activists, were found to be under surveillance by governments around the world.
The policy statement titled ‘Transparency and Responsibility Report 2021’ had identified potential misuse of Pegasus against politicians, NGOs, journalists, lawyers etc. It noted that there are human rights risks involved and also include potential misuse “for reasons unrelated to national security or law enforcement, such as in support of litigation or to obtain information that may be embarrassing to individuals” or “by unauthorised personnel associated with states and state agencies”.
“There are a wide variety of additional government-driven risks that could flow from our technologies. These could include rights associated with the legal and judicial process, such as freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention and similar abuses… as well as invasions of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, restrictions on freedom of movement or participation in civic life,” the NSO Group reportedly said in the statement.
The NSP admitted that the confidentiality restrictions limits its ability to do much more, but it “cooperates with states to try to ensure that when abuses occur within their jurisdictions those affected have access to effective remedy”.
The spyware company claimed that it investigated 12 reports of misuse in 2020 and added that since 2016, it has rejected over USD 300 million in opportunities as a result of its review process.
NSO also said that it has pre-barred over 55 countries as clients for reasons such as human rights, corruption, and regulatory restrictions.
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