Tackling Spyware Misuse: United States' Efforts to Counter Commercial Spyware Proliferation

15 May 2024

You can jump to any part of the United States International Cyberspace & Digital Policy Strategy here. This part is 33 of 38.

Line of Effort 8: Combat the Proliferation and Misuse of Commercial Spyware

The proliferation and misuse of commercial spyware poses a significant threat to both U.S. national security—including counterintelligence interests—and to democratic values and human rights around the globe by enabling the surveillance, repression, and targeting of journalists, human rights defenders, anti-corruption activists, and other civil society members. In March 2023, President Biden signed an executive order limiting U.S. government operational use of commercial spyware that poses significant counterintelligence or security risks to the United States, or significant risks of improper use, including committing human rights abuses, by a foreign government or foreign person. At the same time, the Department of State launched a Joint Statement on Efforts to Counter the Proliferation and Misuse of Commercial Spyware with 10 other countries committed to undertaking concrete efforts to counter the misuse and proliferation of commercial spyware, which an additional 6 countries joined in March 2024.

Moving forward, the U.S. government will continue to work to disincentivize misuse and positively reshape the commercial spyware market by driving out or encouraging reform by businesses associated with the misuse of these tools. The Department of State will continue to engage diplomatically to urge the countries that have already joined the Joint Statement to take concrete steps to counter the misuse and proliferation of commercial spyware, induce additional countries to join, and persuade countries that misuse or enable the misuse of spyware to implement safeguards to deviate less from U.S. policy. The Department of State will continue to partner with the Departments of Commerce and Treasury to promote accountability for those who misuse—or enable or benefit from the misuse—of commercial spyware through tools like sanctions, visa restrictions, and export controls. In addition, the Department of State will continue to elevate this issue in multilateral and public forums as well as engage closely with civil society, journalists, tech platforms, and the investment community.

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This post was originally published on May 6, 2024, by the U.S Department of State