US Restricts Visas For Those Misusing Commercial Spyware
The Biden administration has introduced a new visa restriction policy aimed at curbing the misuse of commercial spyware. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the policy's broad target, stating it would affect those involved in the misuse of commercial spyware to target journalists, activists, perceived dissidents, members of vulnerable or marginalized communities, and the family members of these targeted individuals. The restrictions may also apply to those who facilitate or gain financial benefits from commercial spyware.
Blinken, in a press statement, pointed out the serious implications of spyware misuse, noting it has been "linked to arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings in the most egregious of cases."
This policy is part of a broader initiative that follows a March 2023 executive order by President Joe Biden, which aimed to restrict US government agencies from using commercial spyware that poses a security risk. This move came in response to an increase in hacks targeting US government employees, who had been compromised or targeted by commercial spyware.
The possible implications of the new policy are far reaching, potentially affecting US allies previously accused of using spyware against political opponents and journalists. The US has previously taken action against entities like the NSO Group, the Israeli-based developer of the infamous Pegasus spyware, by placing export limits to restrict the company's access to US components and technology.
These measures, along with the new visa restrictions, highlight the Biden administration's dedication to keeping its citizens protected from a scenario where commercial spyware is uncontrolled and rampant.
This comes amid growing international concern over the use of spyware by governments to suppress dissent and monitor perceived adversaries, signaling an urgent need for global cooperation and accountability in the digital age.