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WhatsApp’s Lawsuit Against NSO in US Federal Court Survives Motion to Dismiss

General / Jul 30, 2020

Article written by Haim Ravia, Dotan Hammer and Adi Shoval

A US federal district court in California decided that Facebook’s lawsuit alleging that NSO Group technology was used to spy on thousands of WhatsApp users may proceed following NSO’s motion to dismiss.

Facebook filed the lawsuit last year, alleging that NSO had exploited a vulnerability in WhatsApp to deploy its surveillance software named Pegasus to surveil human rights activists, journalists, and political dissidents.

In denying NSO’s motion to dismiss, the court found sufficiently pled claims to support Facebook’s allegations at this point. The court explained that the declaration of NSO’s CEO Shalev Hulio, according to which NSO acts entirely at the behest of its government customers and only gives advice and technical support to its customers, leaves open the possibility of the defendants’ involvement. The court also found no compelling reason to extend derivative sovereign immunity protection to NSO, a foreign entity working on behalf of a foreign sovereign. Moreover, NSO is not incorporated in the US, which is a crucial factor in the court’s decision to provide such immunity.

The court’s decision on this matter was issued just days after an Israeli court issued a decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Amnesty International alleging that NSO’s Pegasus software was used to target human rights activists and political dissidents around the globe, seeking to have NSO’s export license revoked. The Israeli court explained that Amnesty had not provided sufficient evidence to show that such surveillance was conducted and that Pegasus was used against the alleged targets.

CLICK HERE to read the US federal court’s decision in WhatsApp Inc. v. NSO Group Technologies Limited.

CLICK HERE to read the Tel Aviv court’s decision in Amnesty International. v. NSO Group Technologies Limited.