Apple recently sued the NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance company that allegedly uses Apple products to spy on targets for its government clients. While the NSO Group has tried to portray itself as a company that helps bring criminals to justice and save lives, a closer look at their clients (and the targets of those clients) tells a more insidious story.
According to internal documents from the NSO Group that were leaked to the press, the surveillance company’s clients include the United Arab Emirates and Mexico, and the targets of those clients have included dissidents, activists, and journalists. The documents also revealed that the teenaged children of those targets (some of whom were living in the U.S.) were also surveilled.
The NSO Group’s legal troubles started back in 2019 when Facebook sued the surveillance company for targeting its WhatsApp users. The surveillance company tried to claim foreign sovereign immunity to have the lawsuit dismissed, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected that argument, thereby paving the way for the case to proceed through the courts.
The unanimous decision also paved the way for Apple to file its own lawsuit against the NSO Group. When Apple discovered that the NSO Group had created spyware that allowed it to access data on a target’s Apple product and transmit it back to the government servers without the target knowing about it, Apple took steps to both prevent future attacks, and to bring the NSO Group to justice for this invasion of privacy.
When it turned out that NSO’s engineers had created more than 100 fake Apple IDs to carry out the attack, Apple was able to sue the surveillance company for violating Apple’s Terms and Conditions, to which every user must agree in order to set up their account. One section of Apple’s Terms and Conditions specifies that users’ engagement with Apple and its products and services are to be governed by California state law. That’s the clause that allowed the Silicon Valley company to sue an Israeli surveillance company in U.S. federal court. Continue reading ›