According to a declaration from NSO CEO Shalev Hulio, two
Facebook representatives approached NSO in October 2017 and asked
to purchase the right to use certain capabilities of Pegasus.
At the time, Facebook was in the early stages of deploying a VPN
product called Onavo Protect, which, unbeknownst to some users,
analyzed the web traffic of users who downloaded it to see
what other apps they were using. According to the court documents,
it seems the Facebook representatives were not interested in
buying parts of Pegasus as a hacking tool to remotely break into
phones, but more as a way to more effectively monitor phones of
users who had already installed Onavo.
“The Facebook representatives stated that Facebook was concerned
that its method for gathering user data through Onavo Protect was
less effective on Apple devices than on Android devices,” the
court filing reads. “The Facebook representatives also stated that
Facebook wanted to use purported capabilities of Pegasus to
monitor users on Apple devices and were willing to pay for the
ability to monitor Onavo Protect users.”
This was just a little over two years ago. The NSO software that Facebook was attempting to license is — according to NSO — intended for legitimate counterintelligence and law enforcement agencies to use in the pursuit of criminals and enemies of the state. There’s certainly a debate to be had regarding the NSO Group and its services, but Facebook’s stated intention for this software was to use it for mass surveillance of its own honest users. That is profoundly fucked up — sociopathic.