Using this software, the government will track people during and after the pandemic. Privacy will no longer exist

NSO Group is embroiled in a new privacy and surveillance scandal. The Israeli technology firm has been pointed out on multiple occasions by the alleged development of sophisticated spyware tools for sale to governments around the world, mentioning experts from a cyber security audit company. The company has even been accused of hacking attempts against Facebook & WhatsApp, accusations that NSO Group has always denied.

In the midst of the global crisis over the emergence of coronavirus, NSO Group would be trying to reach the West with new COVID-19 case-tracking software, trying to sell it to governments to collect as much information as possible about potential outbreaks or cases of infection based on metadata analysis.

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It is rare for NSO Group to publicly state on any of its products or developments. However, this time the company has offered multiple demonstrations on how this new technology would work, as part of a marketing campaign aimed at the rulers of Western countries, mention specialists from a cyber security audit company. 

While the reports ensure that this tool really is everything its creators say, so far no details have been leaked about how it works or whether it provides some measure of protection to the privacy of the target people. It is even mentioned that the Israeli government is ready to start using this tool on the smartphones of its citizens.

Sky News reporters say this software would be hosted on the government’s own client systems. In reality, NSO Group would not have access to the data uploaded to the system, which in turn would be provided by the governments themselves.

Citizens would be registered on this platform using a random identifier. In addition, their location movements would have a timestamp, which will allow platform administrators to track the latest locations of users infected with coronavirus to develop potential risk scenarios, experts from the cyber security audit company.

According to NSO Group, using this tool at the national level, governments could identify regions with the highest concentration of people exposed to COVID-19.

For obvious reasons, this is a project that violates user privacy under almost any data protection legislative framework. However, the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) notes that, due to the state of emergency in force in multiple countries, governments could take extraordinary steps to combat the pandemic, even if these measures conflict human rights.

Even Edward Snowden has spoken out on such measures, stating that governments could take advantage of the emergency to take authoritarian measures that could be instituted permanently without proper oversight of civil society.