Police used notorious spyware to snoop on citizens – media inquiry — Analysis
According to some reports, the surveillance took place without court oversight or authorization
An investigation conducted by Tel Aviv media found that Israeli police used the NSO group’s Pegasus spyware in warrantless phone intercepts to obtain citizens’ consent.
On Tuesday, Israeli news outlet Calcalist published an investigation into claims the country’s police have used the spyware to remotely hack citizens’ phones. Authorities were accused of controlling devices and extracting data, even though they did not have warrants.
Individuals who are thought to have been targeted include mayors, protest leaders, former government employees, and a close contact of a senior politician, Calcalist’s investigation said.
Reportedly, “the hacking wasn’t done under court supervision, and police didn’t request a search or bugging warrant to conduct the surveillance.”Furthermore, it appears that there wasn’t any oversight of the data once they were collected or on how police distributed them.
Israeli law currently only permits the nation’s domestic intelligence agency to hack phones without court permission. According to the outlet, police might have been able to justify an exemption by claiming that the technology was not protected by the existing laws.
Omer Barlev (Israeli Public Security Minister) has rejected the claims, saying that there is no such thing. “no practice of secretive wiretapping, or intrusion into devices, by the Israeli police without the approval of a judge.”
Similarly, the country’s police force stated that it has always operated “according to the authority granted to it by law, and when necessary according to court orders.”
The allegations published by Calcalist’s investigation follows a report in Haaretz that claimed Israeli police were sent an invoice of 2.7 million shekels ($862,045) by the NSO group in 2013. The invoice was reportedly for the purchase of the Pegasus spyware’s most basic form and later updates were added, Haaretz said, citing a source close to the acquisition.
The NSO Group software gives its users the ability to access the smartphone of a particular target so they can read messages, look through photos, track their location, and even switch on the device’s camera. It was announced that as many as 50k phones were illegally accessed by the malware in 2021.
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