WhatsApp filing of a lawsuit against Israel’s NSO Group may reveal one of the biggest scandals of this year. While the Facebook-owned accuses the company of sending malware to at least 1,400 mobile phones for spying purposes, the NSO Group disputes the charges. Given the chequered history of the group, it is hard to not believing WhatsApp account. The group has entered into many contracts with states having problematic human rights records.

The firm insists that it supplies surveillance software to governments to assist them in tackling terrorism. However, in the past few months, a string of complaints show that these states are using the said technology to target human rights groups, activists and journalists. Surprisingly, the firm, despite having full knowledge of such abuses, is doing business with these states. What will be the United States’ (US) reaction to this scandal? Given that the body is virtually the cyber warfare arm of the Israeli military, it’s hard to expect that the US will take any concrete measures and impose sanctions on the firm or Israel. Many arguments can be put forward to impose sanctions at least on the firm if not Israel. The first argument is that the cyber attack that exploited the WhatsApp video calling system is a violation of an individual’s right to privacy and that of his security.

According to the investigation that the Citizen Lab, an academic research group based at the University of Toronto, made after the cyber attack on WhatsApp, it has identified over 100 cases of abusive targeting of activists and journalist in at least 20 countries by NSO Group. The lab maintains “NSO Group stands out in terms of the reckless abuse of its spyware by the government clients … Citizen Lab has identified dozens of cases where members of civil society have been targeted with its spyware, called Pegasus.” The findings of the Citizen Lab in the wake of WhatsApp incident make it clear that the NSO Group spyware is being sold to government clients without appropriate controls over how those clients employ it.

Nevertheless, the real question is will WhatsApp be able to build a wall against such violations of privacy on its own? Even imagining so is difficult. Remedying such a problem will require a coalition of stakeholders, including governments, the private sector and the civil society to reign in the technology that help in unmitigated abuse of privacy. NSO Group, backed by Israel, is illegally spying on the world. Collective and concrete state-level actions, of course, led by the US, are needed, not silent hypocrisy.