Opinion: Scandals surrounding alleged abuse of NSO’s spyware have raised concerns voiced by many not only in Israel, but across the world, primarily the social debate on the interplay between smartphones and companies we host within them

Last month, Calcalist journalist Tomer Ganon revealed the Israel Police has been using invasive technological tools to spy on citizens, among whom were many prominent figures.

Ganon brought to light information, which directly influences the lives of readers and society altogether. He changed our perception, and maybe even reality.

Activists targeted by police's illicit NSO spyware use and ex-Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich
Activists targeted by police’s illicit NSO spyware use and ex-Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky, Moti Kimchi, Tal Shahar, Yuval Chen, Amit Shabi, Gil Nechushtan)


As a result, two high-ranking police officers and two commissioners were put on the spot. Each one of them denied the allegations or tried to justify it by claiming that this scandal was a result of failure in reading between the lines, a common and forgivable human error.

Although these are legitimate claims, and maybe this scandal could have been avoided if the average civilian were to read the terms and conditions of every contract to its last word, there is an implicit understanding that authoritative figures are expected to read the fine print, especially if this ensures the protection of those relying on them.

If the authoritative figures we so strongly rely on confine the extent of their examination of technology to that of an average citizen, how can we blindly trust them to protect us?

האקר אילוסטרציה
(Photo: Shutterstock)


If the police not only fails to warn us against potential dangers lurking between the line, yet also uses the automatic trust of citizens to sabotage them, how can they be credited with honor and loyalty?

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his legislative circle are now also jumping on the bandwagon, attempting to take advantage of the scandal for their repertoire, and for their pockets.

If Netanyahu’s rights were indeed violated by the police’s use of the spyware against him, he is entitled to protection from the court – even if it will undermine his corruption trial. However, Netanyahu’s intentions are clearly not to seek justice.


A woman checks the website of Israel-made Pegasus spyware at an office in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on July 21, 2021
Israel-made Pegasus spyware (Photo: AFP)


Maybe there were mishaps, admit police officials, glitches happen. And technically the policies are fair, the instructions are fair, the software is fair. However, focusing our attention on what is technically in order as a mechanism to conceal sketchy practices is something we are familiar with in the world of technology. But, not as a tactic we are used to seeing employed by our national authorities.

The police must remember that trust is built on the back of small details, and mishaps aren’t easily forgotten. As opposed to bodies like the Shin Bet or Mossad, the police don’t have the legitimacy to act autonomously in the shadows, and the more it continues to assume so, the faster it will see public trust plummeting.

For the police, the Pegasus scandal is just another detail, while for the average citizen, it feeds the existing growing concern felt by many in the Western world. Concern about technology being used to uncontrollably violate our privacy. With time, the idea that the most intimate details of our lives are exposed to strangers for various purposes is becoming deeply embedded in our consciousness and a source of great anxiety.

photo illustration, a person looks at a smart phone with a Facebook App logo displayed on the background
Facebook App logo displayed in the background (Photo: AFP)


It’s true, people don’t read the fine print of every contract they sign. We blindly accept the terms and conditions of any app we log onto, despite being told repeatedly: “If you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product”.

This doesn’t stop us from becoming the product and selling ourselves to Facebook, Twitter, Waze, Google, Instagram, TikTok etc.

Our faithful democratic governments know this about us, and they constantly juggle between restraining the giant technological corporations and protecting freedom of expression. The world is beginning to understand what Calcalist wrote in words. Although the story discusses NSO and Pegasus, the wider conversation surrounding smartphones and the companies embedded in them is the headline, Pegasus is only the framework.

As reported by Ynetnews