US Gov Slaps Visa Restrictions on Spyware Honchos

The US State Department is imposing visa restrictions on 13 people involved in the development and sale of commercial spyware, as well as their spouses and children. 

“These individuals have facilitated or derived financial benefit from the misuse of this technology, which has targeted journalists, academics, human rights defenders, dissidents and other perceived critics, and US government personnel,” according to a press statement from the department issued yesterday. It’s the first implementation on a spyware-related visa-restriction program announced in February.

Visa restrictions mean that the State Department can deny entrance to the United States for any of the people placed under the order. The move is the latest in a series of efforts by the government to combat the commercial spyware used by authoritarian governments, which it says constitutes a human rights abuse. NSO Group’s infamous Pegasus mobile tracking tool, for instance, has been involved in a series of attacks on civil society by repressive regimes, the US has alleged.

Other efforts have included restrictions on the US government’s own use of commercial spyware, export controls and sanctions, and private-public threat intelligence partnerships.