Blackstone Group annuls its plans to acquire a 40% stake in mobile surveillance developer NSO Group

It would appear that the talks were annulled midst a series of complaints over the usage of spyware developed by the NSO Group and how these would reflect on Blackstone.

According to sources familiar with the matter at hand, the Blackstone Group has pulled out of advanced talks to acquire a stake in Israel’s NSO Group, a software company which develops surveillance software midst criticism from digital privacy activists.

According to two sources familiar with the discussions, the talks between Blackstone and NSO ended without reaching an agreement.

Israel’s Calcalist business newspaper had reported last month that Blackstone was in talks with the NSO Group to acquire a 40% stake, worth $400 million, in the privately held Israeli company.

News of these talks had prompted complaints from Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and digital-rights group Access Now, which alleged that the Mexican government had used NSO’s Pegasus mobile spyware to illegally target private citizens.

Although Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was quick to portray these accusations as false, the Mexico’s government is however investigating the claims.

The sources preferred the cover of anonymity since they were not authorized to publicly speak on the matter. They even declined to say when the discussions ended or if the protests had caused the deal to fall through.

Last month, Access Now launched a petition urging Blackstone to its drop plans to acquire a stake in NSO and its surveillance technology.

Similarly, last month Citizen Lab also separately asked Blackstone’s board to consider the human rights and ethical implications of investing in NSO.

John Scott-Railton, a researcher at Citizen Lab, said he was pleased that the talks failed to result in a deal.

“NSO’s spyware has a documented abuse potential, and the list of cases continues to grow,” said Scott-Railton. “Serious investors who have done their due diligence may be thinking twice about just how problematic this category of investments could be to their image and their bottom line.”


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