The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked the administration of President Joe Biden to decide whether the judges should hear a case over whether Meta Platforms Inc’s WhatsApp can file a lawsuit accusing the Israeli NSO group of exploiting a bug in the messaging app to install spy software.
The judges are considering NSO’s appeal against a lower court’s decision, pushing the lawsuit forward. NSO has argued that it is immune from prosecution because it acted as an agent for unidentified foreign governments when it installed the “Pegasus” spyware.
WhatsApp has said the software was used to monitor 1,400 people, including journalists, human rights activists and dissidents.
The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Justice Department for a brief explanation of the legal issue.
Meta Platforms is the parent company of WhatsApp and Facebook and was known as Facebook Inc when the lawsuit was filed. WhatsApp sued NSO in October 2019 for a court injunction and damages, accusing it of accessing WhatsApp servers without permission six months earlier to install the Pegasus software on the targeted people’s mobile devices. NSO has argued that Pegasus helps law enforcement and intelligence agencies fight crime and protect national security.
The NSO appealed a judge’s refusal in July 2020 to grant her “conduct-based immunity,” a common law doctrine protecting foreign officials acting in their official capacity.
The San Francisco 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling from last November, calling it an “easy matter” because NSOs merely licensing Pegasus and offering technical support did not protect it from liability under a federal law. law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which took precedence over common law.
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