Sophie in ‘t Veld: ‘Spyware undermines democracy’

Sophie in ‘t Veld: ‘Spyware undermines democracy’

In June, the committee spoke to Chaim Gelfand, the legal adviser of NSO Group. He said that at least five European member states use Pegasus. He declined to say which countries were involved. Gelfand argued during the hearing for more international rules and regulations.

This week, the European Commission of Inquiry is in Israel to question the CEO of NSO Group. The Ministry of Defense is also visited to clarify the deployment of Pegasus in Europe. That department issues export licenses for the spyware.

‘Hurry needed for European Parliament investigation’

Although the European Parliament’s investigation is still in full swing, In ‘t Veld already speaks of a “European Watergate scandal”. It has been nearly a year since 17 news organizations reported that Pegasus was used to wiretap at least 189 journalists between 2016 and 2019. Prominent figures such as French President  Emmanuel Macron, President of the European Council Charles Michel and King of Morocco Mohammed VI are also said to have been spied on with Pegasus. Hundreds, if not thousands, of others may also have been monitored using NSO Group’s surveillance software.

Lenaers agrees. “It is not just about privacy and human rights but has a broader effect. This has a chilling effect on entire professions. As a journalist or lawyer you will think twice before criticizing the government when you see what happens to your colleagues”, says the CDA member.

In ‘t Veld says that the European Parliament’s investigation is urgent. “If NSO goes bankrupt or is bought up, all information is out of reach. As a European Parliament, we cannot oblige those involved to cooperate or hear them under oath. So we must ensure that we respond flexibly to new developments and generate a lot of visibility among the general public. That can have a disciplining effect on NSO and its customers.”

NSO Group ends up on blacklist

NSO Group has always denied that Pegasus is being used to eavesdrop on civilians. “Our technologies are used every day to take down pedophile and drug and sex trafficker networks, locate missing and abducted children, track down survivors trapped under collapsed buildings, and protect the airspace from disruptive penetration by dangerous drones,” he said. a spokesman for the Israeli company said in a statement.

Parties such as WhatsApp,  Apple and  Amnesty International have in turn sued NSO Group. The human rights organization wants a “grounded and independent investigation” into the conduct of the Israeli company. The US has blacklisted the security company. This means that American companies are not allowed to do business with NSO Group.

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