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Google, Microsoft, Dell Join Facebook In Legal Fight Against Israeli Surveillance Firm NSO

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Shivdeep Dhaliwal
·2 min read
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Big tech companies, including Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG), have joined Facebook Inc’s (NASDAQ: FB) legal efforts against Israeli surveillance company NSO Group Technologies Ltd.

What Happened: Microsoft, Google-parent Alphabet, Cisco Systems Inc (NASDAQ: CSCO), Dell Technologies Inc (NYSE: DELL), and Washinton-based Internet Association argued in a legal brief — filed before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and other U.S. laws make it illegal to access a computing device without proper authorization.

The brief acknowledged that NSO is seeking immunity under the common law of foreign sovereign immunity to cover the actions of private companies at the behest of foreign government customers.

“Expanding foreign sovereign immunity to private companies that use their own cyber-surveillance tools at the behest of their numerous foreign-government customers would dramatically increase the creation and use of cyber-surveillance tools globally,” the companies stated.

“As more companies develop these tools and more governments buy them, the risk that they will fall into the wrong hands increases exponentially and threatens all of us,” said the tech giants.

Why It Matters: The brief called upon the court to decline foreign sovereign immunity to the use of cyber-surveillance tools by private companies at the behest of foreign government customers.

Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp were permitted by a federal court in July to pursue a lawsuit against NSO Group, which allegedly exploited vulnerabilities in the former’s software and infected 1,400 mobile devices belonging to journalists and others with malware.

A district court judge in California has already ruled that the NSO Group does not qualify under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FISA) as it was not incorporated in the U.S.

On Monday, it was reported that three dozen Al Jazeera journalists’ Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL)-manufactured smartphones were hacked using spyware made by the Israeli firm.

Price Action: On Monday, Facebook shares closed nearly 1.3% lower at $272.79. Alphabet Class A shares closed 0.48% higher at $1,734.56 while the company’s Class C shares closed 0.48% higher at $1,739.37. 

On the same day, Microsoft shares closed almost 1.8% higher at $222.59 while Cisco shares closed 1.23% lower at $44.88 and Dell shares closed nearly 0.2% higher at $73.06.

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