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NSO Loses Latest Challenge to Meta Lawsuit Over WhatsApp Spyware

Jan. 6, 2022, 8:43 PM

Israeli spyware maker NSO Group lost its bid to challenge a Ninth Circuit ruling that let Meta Platforms Inc.‘s WhatsApp pursue claims that users of the messaging service were illegally targeted with surveillance software.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to reconsider NSO’s argument that it’s immune from legal action because of its work for foreign governments, according to a Thursday order from the court.

Meta’s lawsuit alleges that NSO’s technology violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by targeting the accounts of 1,400 WhatsApp users to gather information about them, including lawyers, journalists, and human rights activists. NSO has defended its surveillance technologies, saying they’re sold to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to track criminals and terrorists.

The spyware maker had asked for a full slate of Ninth Circuit judges to rehear the case, after a three-judge panel ruled in early November that foreign service immunity doesn’t protect private companies like NSO.

NSO Group didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ruling was issued not long after the U.S. government sanctioned NSO over spyware concerns. A previous decision from the district court level also blocked NSO’s bid to dismiss the suit.

Apple Inc. filed a similar lawsuit against NSO in late November, accusing the spyware maker of illegally surveilling its users.

Meta is represented by lawyers from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and O’Melveny & Myers LLP. King & Spalding LLP represents NSO.

The case is WhatsApp LLC v. NSO Group Technologies Ltd., 9th Cir., No. 20-16408, rehearing denied 1/6/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Vittorio in Washington at avittorio@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kibkabe Araya at karaya@bloombergindustry.com