NSO headquarters in Herzliya; Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, NSO building

State comptroller to probe alleged police use of spyware on civilians

Government watchdog says reported misuse of malware raises serious questions about balance between individual liberties and law enforcement's investigative needs; attorney-general also looking into allegations

Nina Fox |
Published: 01.18.22, 22:54
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said on Tuesday he would launch a probe into alleged police use of controversial spyware on Israeli citizens, first broke out by financial daily Calcalist.
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  • The Ynet sister publication revealed that the use of the malware was authorized by the law enforcement organization's top brass while skipping the required court order.
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    NSO headquarters in Herzliya; Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, NSO building
    NSO headquarters in Herzliya; Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, NSO building
    NSO headquarters in Herzliya; Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, NSO building
    (Photo: AFP, Elad Gershgoren)
    According to Englman, the report raises serious questions in regards to the balance between individual liberties and the investigative needs of law enforcement while risking data leaks and misuse of databases.
    Attorney Gilad Samama, the head of privacy regulator Privacy Protection Authority, spoke to Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai to learn about the scope of law enforcement's use of the Pegasus software, owned by embattled Israeli tech firm NSO Group, and demanded an urgent hearing on the matter.
    Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit was also looking into the issue.
    The Justice Ministry stressed that hacking a civilian's computer or cellphone without a court order is illegal and any investigation making use of such measures requires special authorization from supervising legal bodies, including the Attorney-General Office's cyber department.
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    NSO
    NSO
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    Israel Police denied allegations it made use of the Pegasus malware without legal supervision, particularly against mayors and protesters opposed to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as alleged by Calcalist.
    Shabtai ordered the instances specified in the report to be investigated and noted that some of the incidents mentioned in the report were found to be incorrect.
    "When it comes to the use of the software for law enforcement purposes, everything was done with the required legal permits," he said. "Israel Police will not use its technological capabilities against innocent civilians and demonstrators."
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