Today Access Now wrote to the governments of Bulgaria and Cyprus to request investigations into export licenses that have reportedly been issued by Bulgarian and Cypriot authorities to NSO Group. NSO Group is an Israeli firm that sells technology that has been repeatedly linked to violations of the human rights of individuals around the world.
Independent research has credibly attributed NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to attacks targeting a wide swath of civil society, including at least 24 human rights defenders, journalists and parliamentarians in Mexico, an Amnesty International employee, Omar Abdulaziz, Yahya Assiri, Ghanem Al-Masarir, award-winning human rights campaigner Ahmed Mansoor, and allegedly, the targeting of assassinated journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“By issuing export licenses to the NSO Group without proper assessment of past violations and potential human rights impacts, governments are putting journalists, activists, and dissidents around the world at risk of invasive surveillance, compromising their safety,” said Melody Patry, Advocacy Director at Access Now.
In its letters, Access Now asks authorities in Bulgaria and Cyprus to take positive action in promoting human rights by carefully scrutinizing any further or renewed technology export applications or transfers from NSO Group, its affiliates, or similar surveillance technology exporters to ensure their potential human rights impacts are evaluated and steps are taken to prevent adverse impacts.
“The latest news that attackers may have exploited a security vulnerability in WhatsApp to inject NSO spyware into smartphones shows just how widespread the security problem can be. Governments cannot drag their feet any longer and must get a grip on an industry that has repeatedly failed to respect fundamental rights,” said Guillermo Beltrà, Policy Director at Access Now.
Access Now letters challenging the NSO Group export licenses in Europe take place as another human rights group, Amnesty International, announced its support of a legal action to take the Israeli Ministry of Defence to court to revoke the export license of NSO Group.