Farella Braun Files Amicus Brief in Support of Humanitarian Organizations in Ninth Circuit Appeal of WhatsApp v. NSO

December 23, 2020 Announcement

SAN FRANCISCO, December 23, 2020: Northern California legal powerhouse Farella Braun + Martel today submitted an amicus brief in support of civil society organizations in the NSO Group v. WhatsApp appeal pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, encouraging the court to consider the humanitarian harms of NSO Group’s alleged cyberattack in 2019 on WhatsApp servers. The organizations supported by the firm’s amicus brief are Access Now, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists, Internet Freedom Foundation, Paradigm Initiative, Privacy International, Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales and Reporters Without Borders.

In WhatsApp v. NSO Group, WhatsApp sued NSO Group, an Israeli spyware company, alleging numerous causes of action, including violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, following a May 2019 incident during which NSO and its governmental clients allegedly infiltrated WhatsApp’s servers, seeking to infect users’ phones with the virus. Once it infects a phone, Pegasus can obtain messages, emails, contact lists, photos and videos, and even turn on the phone’s camera, microphone, and GPS system. NSO moved to dismiss WhatsApp’s lawsuit, claiming it is entitled to derivative foreign sovereign immunity, but the district court rejected this argument. NSO appealed to the Ninth Circuit, where it is currently pending.

In its amicus brief, Farella Partners Stephanie Skaff and Deepak Gupta and Associate Kyle McLorg argue that NSO’s actions have harmful implications on humanitarian organizations. The brief features stories of civil society actors across the globe who have been targeted by NSO’s Pegasus spyware. Additionally, the brief explains the customary international law principles that apply to both NSO and its government clients and the ways that NSO violates these laws by deploying Pegasus on human rights activists. Finally, the brief highlights the importance of holding NSO accountable in American courts, given the insurmountable obstacles that surveillance victims often face when seeking justice for the harms they suffer in their own countries.

“NSO and its Pegasus spyware unfairly target individuals fighting for human rights around the world. Our brief brings these stories to the public’s light and to the attention of the Ninth Circuit panel,” said Skaff. “This is an issue of tremendous importance, and we are hopeful the panel will reject NSO’s claims.”

The amicus brief can be viewed here:

Farella Braun + Martel is a leading Northern California law firm representing corporate and private clients in sophisticated business transactions and complex commercial, civil and criminal litigation. Clients seek our imaginative legal solutions and the dynamism and intellectual creativity of our lawyers. We are headquartered in San Francisco and maintain offices in the Napa Valley that are focused on the wine industry.

Cheryl Loof
Farella Braun + Martel LLP
415.954.4433 / [email protected]