Illustration of spyware affecting phone user.

EU: Final vote on spyware inquiry must lead to stronger regulation  

Responding to today’s vote by Members of the European Parliament urging the European Union (EU) to more tightly regulate the use, manufacture and trade of spyware, Rebecca White, campaigner at Amnesty Tech’s Disrupting Surveillance Team, said: 

“This vote by the European Parliament sends a strong political signal to governments in Europe and beyond that spyware abuse must end. However, signals are not enough. The report and recommendations must lead to quick and meaningful action by member states, the European Commission and the European Council. If enacted, the recommendations would strengthen human rights safeguards for the use and export of spyware, but as they stand they do not go far enough and are non-binding.  

“The failure to call for an immediate moratorium on the sale, acquisition, transfer, and use of spyware is particularly disappointing. Two years on from the Pegasus Project revelations, we have seen no real effort from European states to tackle spyware abuse. Amnesty International and other civil society organizations and researchers have shown time and again the scale and devastating impact of this global crisis, and the impunity with which the surveillance industry operates. Member states and the European Commission must now take this opportunity to do something about it. 

“Amnesty welcomes the PEGA Committee members’ pledge to put pressure on the EU Council, EU Commission and member states and monitor progress. However, even full implementation of the recommendations cannot protect people from surveillance tools like Pegasus, which is why we urgently need a ban on these highly invasive forms of spyware.” 

Background:

Today’s vote marks the end of the year-long European Parliament PEGA  Inquiry Committee on the abuse of spyware that was formed in response to the revelations of the Pegasus Project in 2021. The resolution was overwhelmingly adopted in the European Parliament with 411 votes in favour, 97 against, and 37 abstentions. 

The Pegasus Project is a collaboration of more than 80 journalists, with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. It revealed traces of Pegasus spyware on the mobile phones of activists, politicians, journalists and lawyers, had a significant impact that continues to reverberate around the world. Amnesty’s Security Lab played a crucial role in exposing the forensic evidence that proved the data could be connected to NSO Group’s Pegasus surveillance software.