NSO: Back in the News Again

April 3, 2020

Let’s assume that the Beeb is on the money. “Coronavirus: Israeli Spyware Firm Pitches to Be Covid 19 Saviors” is a bit of British snark. First, the word “coronavirus” is newsy, and it is clickbait. Second, “Israeli spyware pitches” converts the use of specialized software into a carnival barker’s shout. (One might ask, “Why?” I think I know the answer. The British Cervantes is on the gallop perhaps?)

The point of the story which contains some loaded words like “controversial” is that NSO has technology which can assist governments in gathering useful information about the virus. The write up states after the Beeb explains that Facebook and NSO are in a legal wrestling match:

NSO says its employees will not have access to any data, but its software will work best if a government asks local mobile phone operators to provide the records of every subscriber in the country. Each person known to be infected with Covid-19 could then be tracked, with the people they had met and the places they had visited, even before showing symptoms, plotted on a map.

Scary, ominous, Orwellian, something that British government agencies would never, ever in a million years consider.

The reality is that monitoring a population is happening in quite a few countries. Perhaps even merrie olde Land of the Angles?

A news story is okay. Shading the coverage to advance the agenda “NSO is just not such a fine piece of British wool” is unsettling — possibly more so than specialized service firms’ software.

Stephen E Arnold, April 3, 2020

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