France and Britain are calling for greater global regulation of commercial surveillance software in the wake of recent Pegasus and Predator spyware scandals, the French foreign ministry said Friday.
In a joint initiative announced at the Peace Forum in the French capital, Paris and London warned against the unregulated development and use of surveillance technology.
While the use of such spyware might be legitimate, it only takes “a few lines of code” to allow it to be used with malicious intent, a French official said.
“Its unregulated use poses a problem in terms of the security and stability of cyberspace, but also in terms of respect for human rights,” the official said.
“An unregulated market also poses the risk of proliferation. This therefore becomes a regulatory issue for us at diplomatic level.” Cyber attacks by state actors, criminal groups and activists have been a threat for years.
But legally available commercial spyware increasingly poses a widening risk, the official said.
Last month, Amnesty International said Vietnamese agents may be behind a global spyware campaign targeting officials, civil society and journalists around the world using an EU-made software called Predator.
Predator, like the Pegasus spyware from Israeli firm NSO that caused a global scandal two years ago, takes control of the camera and microphone of an infected phone, turning it into a pocket spy.
French news outlet Mediapart, which broke the story in a joint investigation with Germany’s Spiegel magazine, said Predator had been sold to governments including Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.
In 2021, a media consortium revealed that Pegasus software had been used to spy on the phones of hundreds of politicians, journalists, human rights activists, and business leaders around the world.