Supreme Court Denies ‘Immunity’ Claim Made By Israeli Spyware Company At The Center Of Meta, WhatsApp Lawsuit

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Supreme Court Denies ‘Immunity’ Claim Made By Israeli Spyware Company At The Center Of Meta, WhatsApp Lawsuit

Kate Anderson on January 9, 2023

The Supreme Court denied a request by an Israeli spyware company claiming immunity from a lawsuit filed by Meta, which owns Facebook and WhatsApp, alleging the hacking company unlawfully installed spyware on WhatsApp in 2019.

NSO Group Technologies requested in April 2022 that the Supreme Court grant the company immunity because it was “acting on the state’s behalf,” according to NSO’s petition for writ of certiorari. The petition was denied by the Supreme Court Monday without explanation, according to the Supreme Court’s order list.

Meta filed a lawsuit against NSO in 2019, arguing that the Israeli company violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after it used the spyware “Pegasus” to access over 1, 400 WhatsApp users’ accounts and conducted surveillance, according to the lawsuit. Some of the account holders included “attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, diplomats, and other senior foreign government officials.”

“Defendants knowingly accessed and without permission altered and used Plaintiffs’ data, computer, computer system, and computer network in order to (a) devise and execute a scheme and artifice to defraud and deceive, and (b) wrongfully control and obtain money, property, and data in violation of California Penal Code,” the lawsuit stated.

NSO claims to create technology used by government agencies to prevent terrorism, organized crime and aid in natural disaster relief but is best known for its Pegasus spyware, according to the company’s website. Additionally, the company’s products are only available for use by government and law enforcement agencies and claimed that European governments were conducting an investigation into an Islamic terrorist during the WhatsApp hack.

“In May 2019, WhatsApp notified 1,400 users that their mobile devices may have been accessed by government actors using Pegasus,” NSO argued. “WhatsApp’s notification ‘killed’ a significant investigation by European governments into an Islamic State terrorist who had been using WhatsApp to plan an attack.”

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NSO’s request for immunity was also rejected by 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Fransisco, according to NBC News. The Supreme Court’s decision will send the lawsuit back to the U.S. District Court of Northern California.

An NSO spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation the company was “confident” that its use of Pegasus would be legal after further review by the courts.

“Meta has repeatedly impeded law enforcement’s ability to lawfully investigate criminals use of WhatsApp to commit serious crimes and acts of terror,” the spokesperson stated. “We are confident that the court will determine that the use of Pegasus by its customers was legal.”

Meta, WhatsApp and the Supreme Court did not respond to DCNF’s request for comment.

Supreme Court Denies ‘Immunity’ Claim Made By Israeli Spyware Company At The Center Of Meta, WhatsApp Lawsuit

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