Opinion: Global spyware such as Pegasus is a threat to democracy. Here’s how to stop it.

Opinion piece in the Washington Post, by David Kaye and Marietje Schaake

For years, the global spyware industry has operated in the shadows, exposed only by human rights organizations and journalists. The industry claims it’s in the business of fighting crime and terrorism. But its members often sell to governments that equate “criminal” and “terror” with “critic” and “dissent.”

Over the weekend, a global consortium of news organizations, including the Post, joined Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, to reveal how hollow the claims of fighting crime and terror are. The consortium reports that Israel’s NSO Group has sold its marquee spyware, Pegasus, to clients that have deployed it against the very pillars of democratic life: press freedom, the presumption of innocence, privacy, and freedom of expression and association.

Pegasus, like other tools, turns the phones of journalists, opposition politicians and peaceful activists into real-time spying devices. A leaked list of phone numbers identified as targets for the spyware includes hundreds of journalists and politicians from Hungary, India, Mexico, Morocco and elsewhere.



Marietje Schaake

Marietje Schaake

Executive Director, Cyber Policy Center