GENEVA- The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties expresses its concern over what Facebook has revealed about two separate groups of hackers and espionage linked to the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Service, which have worked against journalists, human rights defenders, and dissidents.
In a statement published Wednesday, April 21, 2021, Facebook announced measures that would be taken against hacking campaign in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
According to the statement, the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Service (PSS) and another hacking group, often dubbed ‘Arid Viper’ without mentioning who was behind the group, carried out malicious activities aimed at invading the privacy of Palestinian citizens, based in the West Bank, and included journalists, government opponents, human rights activists, and Palestinian Authority officials and Fatah movement.
Mike Deviliansky, head of Facebook’s Cyber Espionage Investigations Department, had told Reuters before publishing the report that the Preventive Security Service had intensified its activities over the past six months or so . He said Facebook believed that the organization had deployed some 300 fake or compromised accounts to target roughly 800 people overall.
The Council fears that what was revealed by “Facebook” is part of the policies pursued by the Palestinian security services to penetrate the privacy of citizens, journalists, and activists among them in particular, as part of its policy to monitor and undermine the movements of opponents.
GCRL fears that what was revealed by “Facebook” is a part of a systematic policy used by the Palestinian security services to invade the privacy of citizens, particularly of journalists and activists to undermine the opponents’ activities.
The Council says that the data published by Facebook indicate that a politically motivated crime has been committed and that these practices constitute a serious threat to citizens’ basic right to privacy which is guaranteed by the Palestinian Basic Law in Article (32), and is guaranteed by international human rights covenants which is an international obligation on Palestine under Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It also voices concern that the results of these malicious activities and the tracking of activists and opponents are being unlawfully used to pressure them ahead of the Palestinian legislative elections process scheduled for May 22.
In this regard, the Council refers to what candidates on electoral lists revealed that they had received threats from unknown parties to publish materials affecting their privacy if they did not withdraw their candidacy from the elections. While the Council calls on the Palestinian government to take immediate decisions to stop all these illegal practices, it calls for an urgent transparent investigation into these incidents and bringing all those involved to justice, and ensuring the protection of the privacy of citizens.