The court case of Amnesty International against the Israeli spyware maker NSO must take place behind closed doors, a judge in Israel said on Thursday. The court in Tel Aviv thus meets the wish of the Israeli Defense Ministry not to handle the case publicly.
Due to concerns about Israel's national security, the judge goes along with the ministry's request that the public and the media should not be allowed into the courtroom.
NSO is the maker of advanced espionage software that makes it possible to monitor smartphones. According to various studies, the company's spyware has been used in several countries against journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders.
Amnesty wants to use the lawsuit to force Israel to block the export of sensitive technology. This is possible by revoking the license for this. In this way the human rights organization wants to prevent governments from using the espionage software against political opponents, activists and other critics.
Amnesty: Israel watches and makes it happen
NSO formally sells its software to governments to use in the fight against terrorism and other forms of serious crime. Nevertheless, the guarantees to guarantee abuse are not sufficient, says Amnesty. The organization accuses Israel of "watching and making it happen".
The Israeli Defense Ministry says it is constantly monitoring surveillance software and that the authorities in the country regularly perform checks.
In addition to the export license case, NSO has been sued in two separate cases by a friend of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and by Facebook. According to Omar Abdulaziz, the company's software was used to spy on the chat conversations between him and Khashoggi.
Facebook sues NSO after it became apparent that a serious vulnerability in WhatsApp has been misused to install the espionage software on target smartphones. In April and May an attempt was made to send the spyware in this way to fourteen hundred smartphones.