WASHINGTON – The authorities in the United States have announced that the country is set to impose visa restrictions on individuals involved in commercial spyware abuses.
The announcement was made by officials from the Biden administration on Monday to curtail abusive spyware practices carried out by foreign governments towards political activists, journalists, and dissidents.
The decision follows a recent report from Human Rights Watch which revealed that two of its employees in Jordan were subjected to targeting using the Israeli-manufactured NSO Group Pegasus spyware.
In a statement addressing the issue, Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the grave threat posed by the misuse of commercial spyware, citing its impact on privacy, freedom of expression, and human rights. The new rules specifically target individuals involved in developing, directing, or operating companies that provide such technologies to governments or their proxies.
According to a senior official from the Biden administration, the new policy will also encompass investors and operators of commercial spyware suspected of misuse.
Moreover, the White House has previously highlighted concerns over foreign governments using spyware to target U.S. personnel, leading to a concerted effort by the U.S. and allied nations to address spyware abuses.
These measures underscore a growing international effort to combat the misuse of commercial spyware and protect individuals’ rights and privacy in an increasingly digitized world.
It is to be noted that the decision for restricting visa would be made on case to case basis and would prevent those who have profited from or facilitated the misuse of commercial spyware from traveling to the U.S; the new policy is operating under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The Biden administration has not clarified whether the State Department has already drafted a list of people who are affected, and other details regarding the visa ban.