NSO Group workers sue Facebook for blocking private accounts

The action comes after WhatsApp sued the firm for its alleged role in the Pegasus video hack

The Facebook app as seen on a smartphone in somebody's pocket

Workers from Israeli spyware firm NSO Group have filed a lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the social media giant of blocking their private accounts after WhatsApp decided to sue their employer.

Employees with the firm have accused the tech giant of blocking their private accounts on Facebook and Instagram, as well as those of their friends and family members, according to Reuters. The workers have petitioned a court in Tel Aviv for Facebook to unblock the accounts, which was allegedly done without any notice.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, launched legal action against the developer last month after finding evidence that pointed to its role in providing the tools for government agencies to target individuals through the video calling function. 

NSO Group was pinpointed in an attack earlier this year that targeted a litany of users, including journalists and human rights activists as well as senior government and military officials in US-allied nations.

IT Pro approached Facebook for comment, but had not received a response at the time of publication. In a statement to Reuters, however, a company spokesperson said it had disabled "relevant accounts" after attributing a sophisticated cyber attack to the company and its employees. These blocks "continue to be necessary for security reasons, including preventing additional attacks," the spokesperson added.

"Blocking our private accounts is a hurtful and unjust move by Facebook," the statement from NSO Group workers said. "The idea that personal data was searched for and used is very disturbing to us".

Facebook added that it had re-enabled some accounts through an appeals process, but the workers are adamant the initial blanket ban, subject to the lawsuit, was unfair.

The tool over which WhatsApp launched legal action, known as Pegasus, was used by hackers between April and May to manipulate a WhatsApp flaw to track users' communications and location data.

NSO Group is known for developing surveillance technology for national governments and public sector agencies. WhatsApp, when it initially pointed the finger, claimed that companies like NSO Group do not have strict enough restrictions to ensure their products aren't complicit in cyber attacks.

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