Topline: Employees of Israeli spyware company NSO Group are suing Facebook for allegedly blocking their personal accounts and violating their privacy—the latest twist in an ongoing legal battle in which Facebook previously accused NSO Group of allegedly violating user privacy by hacking into messaging service WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook.
- Eight current and former NSO Group employees say in the lawsuit that Facebook blocked their personal and private social media accounts because they are associated with NSO Group, not because they violated any of Facebook’s rules, which goes against Facebook’s own terms of service.
- The lawsuit, filed in a Tel Aviv court, also accuses Facebook of violating Israeli privacy law by improperly using personal information that Facebook collected in order to identify them as NSO Group employees (or former employees).
- They allege in the lawsuit that their personal accounts were suspended without any prior warning and without cause, amounting to “collective punishment.”
- Facebook sued NSO Group in October for allegedly creating hacking tools that allowed clients to read the private WhatsApp communications of journalists, diplomats, senior government officials and dissidents (NSO Group vowed to fight the lawsuit, saying its technology has “helped save thousands of lives”).
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes. In a statement, NSO Group said the lawsuit is an “independent action” taken by employees.
Crucial quote: “Blocking our private accounts is a harmful and unjust measure of Facebook against us. In addition, the knowledge that our personal information was searched and used bothers us very much,” the employees said in a statement.
Key background: NSO Group is one of the most prominent private spying companies in the world, billing itself as a solution for law enforcement agencies to surveil terrorists and serious criminals. But independent researchers have accused the company of allowing repressive governments—such as Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Morocco—to use its surveillance technology to track dissidents and human rights workers. Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was allegedly surveilled with NSO Group technology before he was brutally murdered, U.S. intelligence agencies say, by the Saudi government.