Former CIA and National Security Agency official Edward Snowden advocated a ban on the sale of commercial spyware in connection with the scandal surrounding Israel’s Pegasus program. He said this in an interview with The Guardian, which was published Monday, July 19.
“We have to stop this. We can no longer do nothing. If we do nothing to stop the sale of such technology, the number of surveillance targets will far exceed 50,000. They will turn into 50 million, and that will happen much faster than any of us expect,” Snowden said.
He also stressed that the NSO Group, which is known to have used Pegasus not only to spy on terrorists but also to hack the phones of politicians, journalists, human rights activists and businessmen, is just one of many companies selling such software.
According to him, the existence of effective and inexpensive spyware opens the door to widespread abuse. According to Snowden, commercial products of this kind should not exist because they allow smartphones to be used against their owners.
“There are areas, industries that there is no protection against, and that’s why we’re trying to limit the proliferation of this kind of technology. We don’t allow nuclear weapons to become a commercial product,” he said.
Earlier, on July 19, an investigation by the NGO Forbidden Stories and 17 media outlets around the world revealed that the Israeli firm NSO Group, known worldwide for its use of Pegasus spyware to spy on terrorists and criminals, has been using the software to spy on politicians, journalists and other prominent figures around the world.
According to The Washington Post, more than 1,000 people from more than 50 countries have been identified on the list. Among them are 65 business executives, more than 600 politicians and government officials, journalists from CNN, The Associated Press, Voice of America, The New York Times. Also on the list are several heads of state and prime ministers.
In June 2013, former U.S. intelligence officer Edward Snowden handed over classified material to The Guardian and The Washington Post with information on comprehensive surveillance in 60 countries of more than a billion people by the governments of 35 nations, on Internet surveillance programs for British and U.S. intelligence officials, and on U.S. surveillance of officials and citizens around the world.