Responding to the final recommendations and report published today by the European Parliament’s PEGA committee, which urges the European Union (EU) to more tightly regulate the use, manufacture and trade of spyware, Donncha Ó Cearbhaill, Head of Amnesty International’s Security Lab, said:
“The recommendations from the European Parliament’s PEGA committee highlight the issue of abuse of spyware for unlawful surveillance, but stronger limits are needed to effectively address the issue. It is disappointing that the suggestions fall short of calling for an immediate moratorium on the sale, acquisition, transfer, and use of spyware. Credible investigations into the misuse of such spyware, as well as justice for victims, are also needed.
There is a culture of impunity surrounding targeted digital surveillance that must be urgently countered. EU member states must ensure that the PEGA Committee’s recommendations translate into concrete action.Donncha Ó Cearbhaill, Head of Security Lab, Amnesty International
“The call for strengthening human rights safeguards for the use of spyware is welcome, but it remains to be seen whether such safeguards will be enacted in practice and if they can prevent abuses. As recent revelations show, even the most robust human rights protections will not shield us against spyware like Pegasus, which is why we urgently need a ban on these invasive tools.
“There is a culture of impunity surrounding targeted digital surveillance that must be urgently countered. EU member states must ensure that the PEGA Committee’s recommendations translate into concrete action.
“Although non-binding, the vote is one of the most significant responses by lawmakers yet to the Pegasus Project revelations. The inquiry committee recommends the establishment of ‘common EU standards’ which, if adopted, would be a positive step forward — even if greater steps are required in future.”
The Pegasus Project, a collaboration by more than 80 journalists with the technical support of Amnesty International that revealed traces of the Pegasus spyware on the mobile phones of activists, politicians, journalists and lawyers, had a significant impact that continues to reverberate around the world.
On 11 March 2022, the European Parliament voted to create a new “committee of inquiry” to investigate the use of Pegasus and similar spyware surveillance software by European member states.
On 27 March, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order restricting the government’s use of commercial spyware technology, which has been used to intimidate civil society around the globe.
On 30 March, 11 governments issued a joint statement committing to joint action to counter the proliferation and misuse of commercial spyware.