May 25, 2022

The European Parliament on Thursday voted to set up a new “committee of inquiry” to investigate allegations that European member states have acquired and used the powerful Pegasus mobile spyware.

Lawmakers have largely voted to create a commission that will investigate the use of Pegasus and other spyware in the 27 EU member states. The Commission of Inquiry allows parliamentarians to investigate possible violations of European law.

The European Parliament said in a statement that the committee would “look into existing national laws governing surveillance, as well as whether Pegasus spyware has been used for political purposes, such as against journalists, politicians and lawyers.”

Pegasus is a powerful mobile spyware developed by the Israeli company NSO Group that can get full access to the data on the target’s device. NSO is one of the world’s most prolific and well-known spyware producers for widespread surveillance that allows governments and law enforcement to gain access to device data by exploiting security flaws and vulnerabilities in their device software. But researchers consistently find that civil society actors — journalists, activists and human rights activists — are being targeted by governments using Pegasus spyware, despite assurances that only serious criminals and terrorists will be targeted.

The commission’s creation comes less than a month after the European Data Protection Officer called for an outright ban on the use of Pegasus and other mobile spyware that feared an “unprecedented level of intrusion,” citing reports that the spyware had been deployed in two EU member countries. . , Hungary and Poland.

In January, Citizen Lab investigators uncovered evidence that critics of Poland’s ruling party, including opposition MP Krzysztof Brezza, had been targeted by spyware. Text messages stolen from Brezza’s phone were then leaked, processed and broadcast on state television, after which he lost the election by a narrow margin. Breya has since accused the Polish government of interfering in the elections.

The researchers also reported Pegasus infections in France, Germany and Spain.

According to European rules, the Pegasus Committee of the European Parliament will remain in power for one year, but this period can be extended by no more than six months.

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