Facebook allegedly approached spyware maker NSO to track activities of its own users: Report

An NSO CEO statement claims that persons from Facebook had offered to pay a monthly fee on each Onavo Project iPhone user

Israel-based surveillance app maker NSO group has reportedly claimed that Facebook has approached them to spy on its own users. According to NSO's claim, two representatives from the popular social media giant allegedly contacted NSO to buy a few modules of its infamous surveillance software Pegasus. A Vice report cited the request from a statement issued by NSO CEO Shalev Hulio.

The allegation
In 2017, Facebook purchased a web analytics company dubbed Onavo and launched a VPN service called Onavo Project. According to Hulio's statement, Facebook was not getting enough data from iPhone users through the Onavo Project compared to its Android users.

"The Facebook representative stated that Facebook was concerned that its method for gathering user data through Onavo Project was less effective on Apple devices than Android devices," claimed the statement.

"The Facebook representatives also stated that Facebook wanted to use purported capabilities of Pegasus to monitor users on Apple devices and was willing to pay for the ability to monitor Onavo Project users," it added.

The NSO CEO's statement also alleged that the persons from Facebook had offered to pay a monthly fee on each Onavo Project iPhone user. But NSO declined the offer since Facebook is a private concern and the proposal had nothing to do with any interest related to any state government.

The NSO chief has claimed that their company offers its surveillance product Pegasus "only for the prevention or investigation of crimes and terrorism and ensure that the technology will not be used for human rights violations".

What really happened
In October 2019, Facebook sued the cybersecurity company over claims of hacking its instant messenger WhatsApp's users. In the complaint, Facebook claimed that the company had manipulated the WhatsApp servers to spread malware and compromise as many as 1,400 WhatsApp users. The list included many journalists, diplomats, human rights activists, and senior government officials. Facebook claimed that NSO's flagship software Pegasus has illegally accessed messages from WhatsApp, Skype, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Apple's iMessage. NSO hit back at Facebook, asserting that the company offers its technology only to government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to combat heinous crimes and terrorism-related activities.

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