An online database about the use of the spyware Pegasus was recently launched by the Forensic Architecture, the Amnesty International and the Citizen Lab to document attacks against human rights defenders.
In a statement on July 3, Amnesty said the interactive platform — Digital Violence: How the NSO Group Enables State Terror — showed the connections between “ ‘digital violence’ of Pegasus spyware and the real-world harms lawyers, activists, and other civil society figures face”.
Amnesty said NSO Group, which makes the spyware, was a “major player in the shadowy surveillance company” and Pegasus had been used in some of the “most insidious digital attacks” on human rights activists in the world. The spyware enabled an attacker to get complete access to a person’s phone, including contacts, calls, camera and messages, it said.
“The investigation reveals the extent to which the digital domain we inhabit has become the new frontier of human rights violations, a site of state surveillance and intimidation that enables physical violations in real space,” said Shourideh C. Molavi, Forensic Architecture’s researcher-in-charge.
The platform, available at digitalviolence.org, lists out “targets” of the spyware in India that include activists Bela Bhatia and Anand Teltumbde.
In 2020, Amnesty and Citizen Lab had revealed that the spyware was used on nine human rights defenders who were accused in the Bhima Koregaon case.
“The spyware campaign…targeted lawyers and activists Nihalsing B. Rathod, Degree Prasad Chouhan, Yug Mohit Choudhary, and Ragini Ahuja; academics Partho Sarothi Ray and P.K. Vijayan, a journalist who prefers to stay anonymous, and a human rights collective – Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JAGLAG), received malicious e-mails on the group’s official ID, which is accessed by all of its members, including lawyer Shalini Gera. Another JAGLAG member, Isha Khandelwal also received malicious emails on her personal account,” a blog post by Amnesty on June 15, 2020, said.