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WhatsApp case against spyware company NSO to go forward, court says

WhatsApp filed a complaint against NSO Group in October 2019 for sending malware to 1,400 users worldwide.

twitter-logoIndia Today Tech | July 18, 2020 | Updated 16:57 IST

Highlights

  • WhatsApp and Facebook sued NSO Group in October 2019.
  • NSO Group is an Israeli mobile surveillance software company.
  • NSO Group made an attempt to dismiss the lawsuit filed by WhatsApp but the US court denied.

WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against an Israeli spyware company NSO which can now go forward after the US federal court judge granted permission. Phyllis Hamilton, Chief Judge of the US District Court of the Northern District of California, said she had not been convinced by NSO Group's argument that the company didn't target any of the WhatsApp users.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, filed a complaint against NSO Group in October 2019. WhatsApp accused NSO Group of sending malware to 1,400 users of the messaging app. The malware was sent on the mobile devices which belonged to journalists, politicians and human rights activists among others.

Judge Hamilton said that the NSO Group "retained some role" in the targeting of individuals even if it has happened at the direction of their customers. The case will now proceed to discovery in which both WhatsApp and NSO can request documents and records.

WhatsApp is certainly pleased with the court's decision and in an official statement noted, "The decision also confirms that WhatsApp will be able to obtain relevant documents and other information about NSO's practices."

WhatsApp and Facebook also claim that NSO developed a data program called Pegasus. The program collects information such as messages, browser history and contacts from the users' phones.

In an attempt to dismiss the lawsuit filed by WhatsApp, the NSO Group stated that the company deals with foreign governments and use its technology to fight terrorism and other crimes. NSO Group said that this grants it immunity from lawsuits filed in the US courts under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA). But Judge Hamilton noted that NSO Group failed to qualify for immunity as the company was not formed in the US and belongs to Israel.

NSO Group said in a statement, "Our legal team is reviewing the court's decision, so we are not in a position to comment in detail at this time. Our technology is used to save lives and prevent terror and crime worldwide, and we remain confident that our conduct is lawful."

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