U.S. blocklists Sandvine for enabling digital repression in Egypt

Enough is enough! States must intervene on NSO Group’s unchecked power

Access Now and over 100 other organizations are appalled at NSO Group’s alleged involvement in mass human rights violations around the world, and call on state actors to intervene on the company’s unbridled influence and power.

On July 18, Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories released a major investigation into the leak of 50,000 phone numbers of potential NSO surveillance targets. Amnesty’s Security Lab found traces of NSO’s surveillance software, Pegasus, on 37 out of the 67 phones they were able to examine, belonging to journalists and human rights defenders, as well as their families and loved ones. The investigation underscores the urgent need for regulation and transparency in the surveillance industry.

“The global surveillance industry is out of control,” said Natalia Krapiva, Tech Legal Counsel at Access Now. “States have wholly failed to protect people from the human rights violations facilitated by NSO Group and its counterparts. Today, they must collectively step up and implement a moratorium on the sale, transfer, and use of surveillance technology.”

While the company claims its spyware is only used for legitimate criminal and terror investigations, it is evident that its technology facilitates systemic abuse. From the leaked data and investigations, Forbidden Stories and its media partners identified potential NSO clients in 11 countries, including Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Togo, and the United Arab Emirates.

Through an open letter, Access Now and the civil society coalition are calling for immediate strengthening of legal frameworks, oversight, safeguards, and transparency. Recommendations to states include:

  • Immediately put in place a moratorium on the sale, transfer, and use of surveillance technology;
  • Conduct an independent, transparent, and impartial investigation into cases of targeted surveillance and export licenses granted for targeted surveillance technology;
  • Adopt and enforce legal frameworks requiring private surveillance companies and their investors to conduct human rights due diligence, and uphold transparency;
  • Reform laws that pose barriers to remedy for victims of unlawful surveillance, and ensure that paths to remedy are available in practice; and  
  • To Israel, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and all states in which NSO has a corporate presence: immediately revoke all marketing and export licenses issued to NSO Group and its entities, and conduct an independent, impartial, transparent investigation to determine the extent of unlawful targeting, and release a public statement on results of efforts and steps to prevent future harm.

This is not the first time NSO’s Pegasus software has been linked to human rights violations, nor is it the first time Access Now has demanded transparency and accountability within the company, and across the spyware industry. 

Similarly, Israeli digital intelligence firm Cellebrite’s technology is used to abuse rights across the globe. Access Now is urging the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and other stakeholders to stop it from going public until it commits to safeguarding human rights. 

Read the full letter.