Nearly one month after Facebook-owned WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group, alleging the company's spyware infected its users' phones, a group of employees at the embattled firm is now retaliating with its own lawsuit.
The workers filed a lawsuit against Facebook on Tuesday (November 26) accusing the social-media giant of unfairly blocking their private Facebook and Instagram accounts when it sued NSO last month.
The lawsuit, first reported in Israeli media, argues that Facebook violated its own terms of service by blocking the NSO employees, and it used personal information they shared with Facebook in order to identify them—in violation of an Israeli privacy law.
"It appears that Facebook used the [NSO employees'] personal data...in order to identify them as NSO employees (or former employees), in service of imposing 'collective punishment' on them, in the form of blocking their personal accounts," the lawsuit reads in Hebrew.
The lawyers are asking the court to make Facebook lift the ban on the accounts.
WhatsApp had accused NSO of using its servers to break into the phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents, in an attempt to target diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.The lawsuit says the malware was unable to break the app’s encryption and instead infected customers’ phones, giving NSO access to messages after they were decrypted on the receiver’s device.
The NSO Group sells a surveillance program called Pegasus that, in the company’s words, "enables law enforcement and intelligence agencies to remotely and covertly extract valuable intelligence from virtually any mobile device". The company claims it only works with governments, but it has repeatedly come under fire for targeting human rights activists and journalists.