Facebook Unblocks Accounts of Israeli Spyware Firm NSO's Staffers

The employees’ lawsuit came after about 100 NSO staff and their families found their accounts had been blocked last October

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משרדי NSO
משרדי NSOCredit: Ofer Vaknin
Refaela Goichman

Facebook told an Israeli court this week that it would reopen the Facebook and Instagram accounts of NSO Group workers in the wake of a lawsuit against the Israeli surveillance firm.

A group of NSO employees filed a suit against Facebook last November, saying the social media group had unfairly blocked their private accounts when it sued NSO the month before. In February, a Tel Aviv court ordered Facebook to unblock the private account of a worker at NSO.

In addition, Facebook said, many former NSO employees had asked to drop out of the lawsuit after their Facebook and Instagram accounts had been reactivated.

“In light of the fact that the accounts of the plaintiff have returned to activity, all the questions relating to the suit have become completely academic and theoretical because the only significant and operative relief has become unnecessary,” Facebook told the court.

The Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp has accused the Israeli company in a U.S. court of helping government spies in various countries break into the phones of about 1,400 users in a hacking spree targeting diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials across the world. NSO has denied the allegations.

The employees’ lawsuit came after about 100 NSO staff and their families found their accounts had been blocked last October. Facebook acknowledged that it had disabled what it called “relevant accounts” after attributing a “sophisticated cyber attack” to the NSO Group and its employees, asserting that the measure was necessary for security reasons. Eight of the employees then sued the social media giant.

Facebook told the court that it believed NSO was behind the employees’ lawsuit in order to help its case in the United States. “NSO Group continues to abuse the process in Israel, now in an effort to obtain documents that it may leverage for its benefit in the U.S. lawsuit,” the U.S. company told the court.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment.

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