On November 3, the Commerce Department added four foreign companies to what is often referred to as the “Entity List,” for engaging in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. One of those additions was the Israeli company NSO Group, which sells software—often called spyware—that once remotely installed on a phone can steal things like passwords, photos, communications and web searches. It can also activate cameras and microphones without the knowledge of the user. Companies placed on the Entity List are subject to U.S. government licensing and sanctions requirements. The NSO Group was added to the list based on evidence that it developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that use these tools to target government officials, journalists, activists, academics and embassy workers.
To talk about the global spyware problem, Stephanie Pell sat down with David Kaye, a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, and the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. In this former role, he produced a report that called for a moratorium on the sale and transfer of spyware. They discussed the nature of the global spyware problem, what might be done to address it and the important role both civil society groups and journalists have played in exposing it.