Facebook can pursue malware lawsuit against Israel’s NSO Group -US appeals court

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November 8 (Businesshala) – Facebook accuses Israel’s NSO group of exploiting a bug in its WhatsApp messaging app to allow surveillance of 1,400 people, including journalists, human rights activists and dissidents, a US appeals court said. can drive.

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In a 3-0 decision on Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco dismissed privately-owned NSO’s claim that it was exempt from being sued because it acted as a foreign government agent.

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Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms Inc (F.B.O), sued NSO for injunction and damages in October 2019, in which it charged six for installing its Pegasus malware on victims’ mobile devices. Accused of accessing WhatsApp servers without permission months ago.

NSO has argued that Pegasus helps law enforcement and intelligence agencies fight crime and protect national security.

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It was appealing to a trial judge’s July 2020 refusal to grant “conduct-based immunity,” a common law doctrine that protects foreign officials acting in their official capacity.

Upholding that ruling, Circuit Judge Danielle Forrest said it was an “easy case” because NSO’s offer of only Pegasus’ license and technical support did not protect it from liability under federal law, which took precedence over common law. .

“What NSO’s government clients do with their technology and services does not render NSO ‘a foreign state’s agency or instrument’,” Forrest wrote. “Thus, the NSO is not entitled to the protection of foreign sovereign immunity.”

The case will go back to US District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland, California.

Asked for comment on the decision, NSO said in an email that its technology helps protect the public against serious crime and terrorism, and that it is “steadfast in its mission.”

WhatsApp spokesman Joshua Breckman in an email called the decision “an important step toward holding NSO accountable for its attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and government leaders.”

Facebook’s case was supported by Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Cisco Systems Corp (CSCO.O), which called Pegasus-like surveillance technology “powerful and dangerous” in a court filing.

On November 3, the US government blacklisted NSO and Israel’s Candiru for allegedly providing spyware to governments that used it to “maliciously target” journalists, activists and others. Was.

The matter pertains to WhatsApp Inc et al v NSO Group Technologies Ltd et al, 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-16408.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Jonathan Otis


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