Facebook tried to buy spyware to monitor iOS users

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New documents presented in the court case between Facebook and the spyware manufacturer NSO Group show how Facebook attempted to buy spyware (Pegasus) from the Israeli group years ago. This could potentially have been used to better monitor iOS users.

Facebook filed a lawsuit against the NSO Group following a large-scale attack on WhatsApp in early 2019. According to Facebook, the NSO Group was behind the attack (in which data about locations was captured from government officials, among others).

During the court case, however, documents were presented showing that Facebook contacted the NSO Group two years earlier in an attempt to take over the spyware, in order to have a better insight into the behaviour of iOS users.

Not only would Facebook have wanted to achieve this with the separate spyware, the company also hoped to add the features to Onavo’s app, a VPN service that has long been known to collect considerably more data than is strictly necessary. Not long after it became clear that the Onavo app could be considered Spyware, Facebook itself pulled the plug on the service.

Facebook’s attempt to take over the spyware was repelled by the NSO Group, claiming that the company only provides services to governments and police units.