Yesterday, March 27, in a significant victory for human rights, President Biden issued an executive order barring operational use of foreign or domestic commercial spyware by all U.S. federal agencies, unless they meet stringent requirements.
The executive order, a product of interagency coordination, prohibits any federal entity from using spyware that presents risks to U.S. national security or has been misused by foreign actors to enable human rights abuses around the world. It details specific, high bars federal agencies must meet to receive a waiver. The order was announced on the same day 45 civil society organizations, including Access Now, urged world leaders and tech investors to protect people from spyware — and just days before the second Summit for Democracy.
In December, Congress passed into law various spyware-related provisions aimed at cracking down on the use of this invasive technology. Last year, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a public hearing on the threats posed by foreign commercial spyware like NSO Group’s Pegasus. NSO Group was added to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List in November 2021 along with Candiru.
Access Now will continue to engage Congress and the U.S. administration to take further action on spyware and ensure the protection of digital rights around the world.