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About time! Congress makes it harder for U.S. companies to buy blocklisted spyware firms like NSO

Access Now applauds the U.S. House of Representatives in passing U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will make it difficult for a U.S. company to buy a firm blocklisted on the U.S. Entity List. The decision came yesterday in response to U.S. defense contractor L3Harris Tech’s attempt to acquire sanctioned spyware maker NSO Group, which ultimately failed thanks to White House opposition.

“Spyware is used to invade the personal lives of people across the globe, eroding privacy, and risking lives,” said Jennifer Brody, U.S. Policy and Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “This amendment sends a clear message from the U.S. government: surveillance tech’s unchecked rule is coming to an end.”

The amendment calls on the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to conduct a feasibility study “using existing authorities to implement a suspension of any merger, acquisition or takeover that would result in control, including full or partial ownership of some or all assets, of a covered foreign entity.” A “covered foreign entity” is an internationally-owned company included on the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List

“This commonsense fix helps close a loophole in U.S. law that currently allows surveillance tech peddlers to slip the noose,” said Peter Micek, General Counsel at Access Now. “Access Now supports this move by Representative Malinowski, marking another step towards consistent, strong U.S. law and policy that protects journalists, dissidents, and activists from invasive spyware.”