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Amnesty calls for moratorium on surveillance technology

PARIS: Allegations that governments used phone malware supplied by an Israeli firm to spy on journalists, activists and heads of state have “exposed a global human rights crisis”, Amnesty International said, asking for a moratorium on the sale and use of surveillance technology.

In a Friday statement, the NGO warned of “the devastating impact of the poorly regulated spyware industry on human rights worldwide”.

The NSO Group’s Pegasus software — able to switch on a phone’s camera or microphone and harvest its data — is at the centre of a storm after a list of about 50,000 potential surveillance targets was leaked to rights groups.

Read: Pegasus spyware — how does it work?

Amnesty International and French media nonprofit Forbidden Stories collaborated with a clutch of media companies to analyse and publish the list.

“Not only does it expose the risk and harm to those individuals unlawfully targeted, but also the extremely destabilising consequences on global human rights and the security of the digital environment at large,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s Secretary General, said in the statement.

Israel group NSO “is just one company”. “This is a dangerous industry that has operated on the edges of legality for too long, and this cannot be allowed to continue,” she said.

“Now, we urgently need greater regulation over the cyber surveillance industry, accountability for human rights violations and abuses, and greater oversight over this shadowy industry.”

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2021

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