The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released an extremely alarming new report on Friday about the threats to privacy and human rights posed by new surveillance technologies. The condemned use largely echoes the situation in Switzerland.
For Elizabeth Throssell, of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who briefed the press on Friday at UN headquarters in Geneva, this is a fundamental human rights crisis of unprecedented proportions.
The main concern is the use of “espionage”, namely spyware, the most famous of which is Israel’s Pegasus, a type of software used by the Swiss authorities, as revealed by an RTS investigation in 2021.
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At least 65 states use Pegasus
Once installed, software like Pegasus turns a simple smartphone into a 24-hour surveillance media device through a zero-click attack. It becomes almost impossible to escape once the phone is targeted.
Messages, photos, applications, emails or the camera are available to a spy who can get a very accurate picture of the phone owner’s thoughts, tastes, opinions and relationships.
Thus, the intelligence services and other investigative bodies of many states use this software, according to a UN report that condemns the global and massive phenomenon. At least 65 countries around the world are said to use Pegasus for intelligence purposes, although the actual figure is probably higher.
Did Switzerland use Pegasus?
In French-speaking Switzerland, Sébastien Fant, a lawyer and data protection and transparency officer in the canton of Valais, wanted to know if Pegasus was the spyware used by Switzerland and filed an official request with the federal police, Fedpol, on behalf of the Swiss government. Federal Transparency Act. However, Vale’s lawyer categorically refused only for reasons of national security.
The lawyer then captured the Federal Data Protection Officer, but he was against the new silence of Fedpol, who refuses to provide any information, even if he had informal contacts with the company that markets Pegasus. Finally, Sebastian Fanti appealed to the Federal Administrative Court (TAF). The case is ongoing, according to TAF, which did not specify a decision date. For his part, Valle’s attorney says he’s prepared to go to federal court.
Although no commission of inquiry has been opened in Switzerland, Sébastien Fant has contacted PEGA, the European Parliament’s commission of inquiry, which is responsible for the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware.
Although Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, the European Parliament has accepted its offer of cooperation. Vale’s lawyer is now at their disposal and will send all the information he has. He was also appointed this year as a data protection expert of the Council of Europe and the European Data Protection Board.
>> Check out the 7:30pm thread on using Pegasus software in Switzerland: