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Law360: 9th Circ. Doubts NSO’s Immunity Defense In WhatsApp Suit

April 12, 2021

Israeli technology company NSO Group’s request for immunity in a case filed by Facebook and the social media platform’s messaging subsidiary WhatsApp was met with skepticism by the Ninth Circuit, Law360 reported. Facing accusations that its software was used to spy on “human rights lawyers, journalists, and political dissidents in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico,” NSO is claiming it should be afforded the same sovereign immunity foreign nation states receive. O’Melveny partner Michael Dreeben represents Facebook and WhatsApp in the matter.

Circuit judges pointed out a lack of precedent for private companies receiving the same immunity as foreign governments and suggested discovery was necessary to learn more about the alleged activities. Microsoft, Google, Cisco, and other technology corporations filed amicus briefs in support of Facebook, asserting that granting such immunity would have negative consequences for cybersecurity. 

“[NSO] doesn’t have a unilateral relationship with any single foreign state,” said Dreeben. “It is a private multinational company that’s selling spyware around the globe.” He went on to note that the case law NSO referenced in support of its claim involved “natural persons,” not private companies. 

Law360 subscribers can read the full article here.