Spyware concerns prompt US Congress to move toward sanctions
Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:
After years of inaction from lawmakers, there are now louder and louder calls in Congress for sanctions of spyware companies. Even those from Israel, which is remarkable because it has a strong surveillance industry, but also has been a strong ally for the United States.
What is on US lawmakers' sanction list?
Well, a number of members of Congress are calling on the Treasury and state departments to sanction NSO Group, as well as three other companies. And they're responding to the growing alarm about human rights abuses that these technologies, and so these companies are enabling. Their tools are sold as counterterrorism kits, but instead governments around the world are deploying spyware against critics, journalists, or human rights defenders. Besides the notorious NSO Group, the UAE-based company, DarkMatter, and European companies Nexa Technologies and Trovicor are in focus on Capitol Hill. And it's remarkable that after decades of allowing spyware companies to flourish, the recent revelations of infiltration of the phones of US diplomats, as well as broader concerns over the proliferation of commercial intelligence broker seems to have caused the current tipping point. But my hope is that beyond ad hoc sanctions to individual companies, US lawmakers, along with their partners around the world, will adopt a binding ban on all similar systems, which damage has become completely disproportionate to the shallow promises of security benefits.