The EU wants to probe the “political” use of the spyware, especially in Hungary and Poland.
The European Parliament voted last week to create a new “committee of inquiry” to investigate allegations that European member states acquired and used Pegasus mobile spyware.
Lawmakers voted largely in favor to create the committee. The new committee will be charged with investigating the use of Pegasus and other surveillance spyware. Their remit covers all 27 member states of the European Union. A committee of inquiry allows lawmakers to investigate possible breaches of European law.
The 38-member “Committee of inquiry to investigate the use of the Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware” will investigate alleged breaches of EU law, the parliament said in a statement. Specifically, they intend to probe “the use of the surveillance software by, among others, Hungary and Poland.”
“The committee is going to look into existing national laws regulating surveillance,” the Parliament said. They added that they want to see if Pegasus spyware was “used for political purposes” against people such as journalists, politicians and lawyers.
The vote to establish the committee of inquiry was carried 635 in favour, 36 against and 20 abstentions.
Governments around the world have been found to use Pegasus
The Pegasus malware, created by Israeli technology firm the NSO Group, was engulfed in controversy last July after a collaborative investigation by several media outlets reported that a string of governments around the world had used it to spy on critics and opponents.
Hungary was listed by the investigative journalism consortium as a potential user of Pegasus. They claim the Hungarian government targeted journalists, lawyers and other public figures.
A senior official in Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz confirmed that the country had used the software, but said it had not been used to illegally spy on the countries citizens.
Poland’s powerful ruling party leader admitted in January that the country also bought the Israeli spyware. But he dismissed claims it was used against the opposition.
Citizen Lab, a Canadian cyber security watchdog, claims that Pegasus was used against Polish opposition figures.
Pegasus can turn smartphones into pocket spying devices. It allows the user to read the target’s messages, track their location, and even turn on their camera and microphone without their knowledge.