NEW DELHI: Cornered by questions of media organisations around the abuse of Pegasus spyware that Israel-based NSO Group had created to help governments track terrorists, sex and drug-trafficking rings, NSO Group has announced that it will "no longer be responding to media inquiries" on how journalists, activists, political opponents were snooped by its spying technologies.
A series of explosive news articles revealed how NSO Group's Pegasus spyware was used by government agencies in India to spy on activists, journalists and those who are critical of the government. Not just in India, even the smartphone of French President Emmanuel Macron was allegedly targeted for surveillance using Pegasus by Morocco's intelligence service.
NSO Group termed the entire revelation by Forbidden Stories as a "planned and well-orchestrated media campaign". The company in its defence said, "The list is not a list of targets or potential targets of Pegasus.The numbers in the list are not related to NSO group. Any claim that a name in the list is necessarily related to a Pegasus target or Pegasus potential target is erroneous and false."
NSO Group claims to work with authorised government only. It has 60 customers across 40 countries. The company said that 51% of its users belong to Intelligence Agencies , 38% law enforcement agencies and 11% military.
In its latest transparency report, NSO Group said that it does not operate Pegasus, has no visibility into its usage, and does not collect information about customers.
"NSO is a technology company. We do not operate the system, nor do we have access to the data of our customers, yet they are obligated to provide us with such information under investigations," it said in a post on its website.
Having said that, NSO Group said that it would "thoroughly investigate any credible proof of misuse of its technologies" by its customers.
As per the company's transparency report, Pegasus is not a mass surveillance technology. "It only collects data from the mobile devices of specific individuals, suspected to be involved in serious crime and terror," the company said in its Transparency and Responsibility Report. However, note that NSO Group has "no visibility into its usage" as "it does not operate Pegasus".
In other words, the company is contradicting itself as it has little to no control over how governments use Pegasus once it's bought. And the latest reports reveal that none of the potential targets of Pegasus in India or globally had anything to do with terrorism, pedophilia, sex, and drug-trafficking rings.
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