Novalpina Capital buys spyware co. NSO Group, commits to greater transparency but rights groups call out unaddressed issues
On the 14th of February 2019 it became public that US private equity fund Francisco Partners had sold the Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group to its Israeli co-founders. The founders and management team were supported in the acquisition by the private equity firm Novalpina Capital.
On the 15th of February, Novalpina Capital sent a letter to Citizen Lab, a Canadian interdisciplinary research laboratory, which to date published 11 reports detailing how NSO’s spyware was being used to spy on human rights defenders, among others. In the letter, the company said that the concerns that had been raised by Citizen Lab were one of the factors they examined prior to the deal, that they had conducted extensive due dilligence and that they were satisfied that NSO operated with integrity and caution. They said they were committed to helping NSO become more transparent about its business. In response, Citizen Lab asked that, as a first step, Novalpina Capital provided answers to several questions regarding their and NSO’s human rights due diligence and corporate social responsibility practices. On the 19th of February, a number of leading civil society organizations wrote to Novalpina Capital, asking it to respond to 9 specific points of concern. Novalpina Capital did not respond directly to the letter, but commented on it in an article.
The three letters and the article are available below. On 18th of June 2019, Novalpina Capital promised a “significant enhancement of respect for human rights” at NSO Group. In September 2019, NSO group developed a human rights policy, vowing to abide by UN Guiding Principles, but human rights watchdogs reacted with scepticism.