Facebook Tried To Buy An NSO Group Tool To Spy On Their Users….. Perhaps A New Reason To #DeleteFacebook

You might recall that Facebook is currently suing the shadowy NSO Group who is known for selling top shelf spyware that often exploits zero day vectors to nation states with questionable human rights records. A real bombshell dropped today via a Vice story which says this:

According to a declaration from NSO CEO Shalev Hulio, two Facebook representatives approached NSO in October 2017 and asked to purchase the right to use certain capabilities of Pegasus. 

At the time, Facebook was in the early stages of deploying a VPN product called Onavo Protect, which, unbeknownst to some users, analyzed the web traffic of users who downloaded it to see what other apps they were using. According to the court documents, it seems the Facebook representatives were not interested in buying parts of Pegasus as a hacking tool to remotely break into phones, but more as a way to more effectively monitor phones of users who had already installed Onavo.

“The Facebook representatives stated that Facebook was concerned that its method for gathering user data through Onavo Protect was less effective on Apple devices than on Android devices,” the court filing reads. “The Facebook representatives also stated that Facebook wanted to use purported capabilities of Pegasus to monitor users on Apple devices and were willing to pay for the ability to monitor Onavo Protect users.”

Facebook proposed to pay NSO a monthly fee for each Onavo Protect user, the filing adds.

The Onavo Protect VPN was eventually dropped by Facebook, but not before they got slapped by Apple because of how shady it was.

Here’s where things get weird. Vice reached out to Facebook for comment. And this is what Facebook said:

In a statement, Facebook suggested NSO is misrepresenting these conversations between NSO and Facebook employees.

“NSO is trying to distract from the facts Facebook and WhatsApp filed in court over six months ago. Their attempt to avoid responsibility includes inaccurate representations about both their spyware and a discussion with people who work at Facebook. Our lawsuit describes how NSO is responsible for attacking over 100 human rights activists and journalists around the world. NSO CEO Shalev Hulio has admitted his company can attack devices without a user knowing and he can see who has been targeted with Pegasus. We look forward to proving our case against NSO in court and seeking accountability for their actions,” the statement from a Facebook spokesperson read.

You’ll note that Facebook is not denying that conversations took place. Which is interesting. I would love to find out in court what the subject of those conversations were. The cynical side of me says that Facebook was looking for new ways to spy on users. But I would like to see if Facebook admits this under oath, or if facts come out that support what NSO Group is saying. And to be clear, NSO Group are not boy scouts. Which is why this needs to come out in court. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

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