Pegasus Reports Highlight Need for Better Regulation of Spyware: UN Rights Chief

"Journalists and human rights defenders play an indispensable role in our societies, and when they are silenced, we all suffer," Michele Bachelet said.

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New Delhi: United Nations humans rights chief Michelle Bachelet has issued a statement on the revelations brought forth by the Pegasus Project, a consortium of 17 organisations from across the world, including The Wire. The project has revealed how governments in various parts of the world, including India, may have been using spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO Group to gain access to citizens’ phones and other devices.

The numbers on a leaked list of potential targets of Pegasus clients includes human rights defenders, journalists, politicians, businesspersons and others.

“Revelations regarding the apparent widespread use of the Pegasus software to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and others in a variety of countries are extremely alarming, and seem to confirm some of the worst fears about the potential misuse of surveillance technology to illegally undermine people’s human rights,” Bachelet said in a statement.

“Various parts of the UN Human Rights system, including my own Office, have repeatedly raised serious concerns about the dangers of authorities using surveillance tools from a variety of sources supposed to promote public safety in order to hack the phones and computers of people conducting legitimate journalistic activities, monitoring human rights or expressing dissent or political opposition.”

Also read: Rahul Gandhi Selected as Potential Spyware Target in Run Up to 2019 Polls and After

The UN human rights chief said that “Journalists and human rights defenders play an indispensable role in our societies, and when they are silenced, we all suffer.”

Bachelet also said that companies like the NSO Group have the responsibility to ensure their spyware is not used to harm human rights. “Companies involved in the development and distribution of surveillance technologies are responsible for avoiding harm to human rights.  They need to take immediate steps to mitigate and remedy the harms their products are causing or contributing to, and carry out human rights due diligence to ensure that they no longer play a part in such disastrous consequences, and avoid being involved in similar future scenarios.”

“These reports also confirm the urgent need to better regulate the sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology and ensure strict oversight and authorisation. Without human rights-compliant regulatory frameworks there are simply too many risks that these tools will be abused to intimidate critics and silence dissent,” Bachelet continues.

The Pegasus Project is a collaborative investigation that involves more than 80 journalists from 17 news organisations in 10 countries coordinated by Forbidden Stories with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Read all our coverage here.