Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch today called for governments to suspend the trade of surveillance technology until a regulatory framework to protect the rights of individuals/groups is in place.

That demand follows a report that Pegasus spyware developed by Israel-based NSO Group was used to track journalists and activists.

Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism non-profit, and Amnesty International, released their Pegasus Report report July 19, which found that NSO’s software licensed to countries to track terrorists and criminals was also used to eavesdrop on reporters, business executives and human rights groups.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, India, Azerbaijan, Hungary, Mexico and Rwanda are NSO clients, according to the Pegasus Project, which is supported by the Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, Haaretz/The Marker, PBS Frontline and Radio France.

NSO, which was represented by SKDKnickerbocker unit late 2019, flatly denies the findings of the Pegasus Project, saying the report is loaded with false accusations and inaccuracies.

Deborah Brown, senior digital rights researcher at HRW, said the disturbing reports about the Pegasus software “highlight the harm this opaque industry causes when spyware ends up in the hands of governments that abuse it.”

She believes “companies need to be held accountable for human rights violations they facilitated by selling their software to governments likely to abuse it.”

In the aftermath of the Pegasus Report release, House Democrats called for the Biden administration to put NSO Group on an export control list.

New Jersey’s Tom Malinowski, California’s Katie Porter and Anna Eschoo and Texas’ Joaquin Castro said in a statement that selling spyware to authoritarian governments and expecting they would use it responsibly is like “selling guns to the mafia and believing they will be used for target practice.”

Anita Dunn, senior advisor to Biden and founding member of SKDK, is returning in August to the New York firm, which is part of Mark Penn’s Stagwell Group.