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French ex-diplomat saw ‘potential for misuse’ while working at NSO

Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States, in 2014. (CC BY-SA Clergier, Wikimedia Commons)
Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States, in 2014. (CC BY-SA Clergier, Wikimedia Commons)

Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to Israel, as well as the UN and US, says he saw “potential for misuse” during his time working at the controversial Israeli cyber firm NSO Group.

Araud took a position as a consultant to NSO in 2019, advising on human rights, soon after stepping down as France’s ambassador to Washington.

“I took the position because I found it interesting. It was a new world for me,” Araud tells AFP. His one-year mission from September 2019, along with two other external consultants from the United States, was to look at how the company could improve its human rights record after a host of negative news stories.

The group was acquired in 2019 by a London-based private equity group, Novalpina, which hired Araud to recommend ways to make the company’s safeguard procedures “more rigorous and a bit more systematic,” he says.

Araud notes that countries that purchase the spyware Pegasus from NSO are meant to deploy it only to tackle organized crime or terrorism. But “you could see all the potential for misuse, even though the company wasn’t always responsible,” he says.

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