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6 Aug 2021

Joel Simon, Committee to Protect Journalists

WhatsApp Chief Executive says spyware industry is undermining freedom, calls on governments to introduce complete moratorium

"WhatsApp Head Will Cathcart: The spyware industry is undermining freedom", 26 July 2021.

Cathcart has been outspoken about threats to security, including so-called backdoors, which governments argue would give law enforcement much-needed access to encrypted communications, but which would also be vulnerable to malicious hacking. Cathcart has also been highly critical of the NSO Group...

NSO group says Pegasus is a critical tool that governments use to combat crime and terror. [But the Pegasus Project] ... revealed that possible targets included hundreds of journalists and human rights defenders, not to mention senior political leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron.

NSO has told CPJ it has no connection to the list of phone numbers, that it vets all clients and investigates credible allegations of abuse, and that it cannot access customer data except in the course of an investigation. In a statement to the Guardian, the company denied that Macron had been targeted by any of its customers...

[Cathcart said:] "We’re continuing... our lawsuit in our push against NSO Group. We’re hoping more of the industry joins, and that more of the industry is loud about the problem. But what’s most important is governments. Governments need to step in and say this was not okay. Who was behind it? Who were the victims? What’s the accountability? Governments need to step in and have a complete moratorium on the spyware industry."...

CPJ emailed NSO with a request for comment on the WhatsApp lawsuit and the attack Cathcart attributed to NSO, but did not hear back before publication. The company denied the WhatsApp allegations when the lawsuit was announced, as CPJ noted at the time, and is challenging the suit in court, arguing it should be immune on grounds that its clients are foreign governments, according to the Guardian.