A high-profile lawsuit brought by the WhatsApp messaging service was unsuccessfully attempted to be stopped by the Supreme Court on Monday thanks to an Israeli spyware firm.
The judges upheld the judgments against the Israeli company NSO Group made by lower courts.
According to WhatsApp, NSO used highly sophisticated spyware to target 1,400 users of the encrypted chat service.
The company that owns WhatsApp, now known as Meta Platforms Inc., is attempting to prevent NSOs from using Facebook platforms and servers and to pursue unspecified penalties.
NSO asserted that it ought to be regarded as a foreign government representative and, as such, be granted immunity under U.S. law, which prohibits lawsuits against foreign governments.
The motion is an appeal of two prior decisions by federal courts, which rejected arguments of a similar nature made by the Israeli corporation.
The Biden administration requested that the court dismiss the appeal. According to a statement from the Justice Department, “NSO certainly is not entitled to immunity here.”
Pegasus, the company’s flagship tool, enables users to secretly access messages, contacts, the camera, microphone, and location history on a target’s mobile device.
According to NSO, the device can only be purchased by government law enforcement agencies, and Israel’s Defense Ministry authorizes all sales.
It does not name any of its customers.
At least 100 of the users involved in WhatsApp’s lawsuit, according to the company, were journalists, civil society representatives, and rights campaigners.
Those opposed to NSO claim that some of its clients, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Poland, have exploited the system to eavesdrop on opponents and stifle dissent.
Despite claiming precautions against misuse, NSO has acknowledged that it has no control over how its customers utilize the product.
The WhatsApp issue is only one of many court cases that NSO currently faces. Apple claims it wants to stop NSO from breaking into its products in a separate case.
It referred to NSO’s staff as “amoral 21st-century mercenaries” and claimed Pegasus had only harmed a small percentage of iPhone users globally.
The U.S. has also placed NSO on a blacklist. by the Department of Commerce, limiting its access to American technology.
According to American officials, the company’s wares were involved in “transnational persecution.”