After the revelations of the Pegasus project, around 100 civil society organizations appeal to the international community to curb the out of control surveillance industry. In a fire letter published on Tuesday, they are mainly pressing for an immediate moratorium on the sale, export and use of spyware such as the Pegasus Trojan from the Israeli NSO Group.
To the signatories of the open letter include Access Now, Amnesty International, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the umbrella organization European Digital Rights (EDRi), Global Witness, PEN America, Privacy International, Reporters Without Borders and Statewatch. There are also around 90 other institutions and dozens of independent experts.
Impartial investigation required
Companies that sell spyware to states and other companies have long been a thorn in the side of the institutions involved. The German industry includes FinFisher, Trovicor and Rohde & Schwarz. The barrel overflowed with the NSO affair. Human rights groups recently documented dozens of cases in which the company’s products, such as its battleship Pegasus, were used by authoritarian regimes around the world to spy on activists, journalists and political opponents and, if possible, to silence them.
The alliance also calls for an “independent, transparent and impartial investigation into cases of targeted surveillance” and the export licenses issued for them. States should adopt and enforce a legal framework that requires relevant companies and their investors to carry out human rights due diligence and to maintain transparency. Laws that put victims of unlawful surveillance in the way of legal action need to be revised.
Israel, Bulgaria, Cyprus and other states in which NSO has a seat urged the alliance to revoke all marketing and export licenses granted to the company. An independent, impartial and transparent investigation is also necessary in order to determine the extent of the illegal surveillance. Furthermore, these countries should publicly declare that they are taking the necessary steps to prevent future damage in this area.
Stop using surveillance technology
“The revelations are just the tip of the iceberg,” the letter said. The surveillance industry has been allowed to work out of control for far too long. The governments have not fulfilled their state duty to protect, rather they have violated their own human rights promises “by unleashing these invasive weapons” on innocent citizens “all over the world”.
The alliance also supports the UN High Commissioner’s call for governments to immediately stop their own illegal use of surveillance technology and tighten export regulations. Civil rights organizations had previously stated that the NSO group was subverting requirements through a worldwide labyrinth of holding companies. Lawsuits from Reporters Without Borders against the company are already underway.
The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden also recently spoke out in favor of an international trade ban in spyware compared the effects of spy software like Pegasus with that of “nuclear weapons”. In one He is now adding a post on the “uncertainty industry” and additionally requires development companies and their financiers to be held liable for defective and “bad” code in commercial products. Otherwise, soon not only 50,000 targets would be spied on with Trojans, but 50 million.