Professor Kaye Testifies Before Indian Supreme Court Committee on the Threats to Human Rights Posed by Pegasus Spyware


Zoom screenshot of Prof. Kaye testifying

University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI Law) Professor and Director of the International Justice Clinic, David Kaye, provided expert testimony before a committee established by the Supreme Court of India to investigate the Indian government’s use of the intrusive Pegasus spyware.

Prof. Kaye’s testimony concerned the alleged purchase and misuse of Pegasus spyware by the government of India. In Oct. 2021, the Supreme Court of India issued a sweeping decision calling into question the legality of the government’s use of Pegasus. It constituted a Technical Committee to evaluate the facts of intrusion in India and consider recommendations for legal constraint on its use.

UCI Law students in the International Justice Clinic, under the supervision of Prof. Kaye and Digital Rights Fellow Sofia Jaramillo, assisted in the preparation of an affidavit explaining the incompatibility of the use of Pegasus with international human rights norms. The affidavit and oral testimony evaluated how Pegasus intrudes on several fundamental rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and non-discrimination.

“Pegasus spyware’s intrusiveness argues for its ban,” stated Prof. Kaye. “Even while working toward a global ban, governments – including India – should, among other things, implement strict requirements for its purchase and use subject to international human rights law, disclose its purchase and use publicly, and require strict and public judicial oversight.”

“The use of spyware has a chilling effect on freedom of expression that is the core foundation of democratic governance: when people fear surveillance, they censor their speech and can no longer freely discuss their ideas, organize social movements or advocate for change,” said Anna Setyaeva, a UCI Law 2L in the International Justice Clinic. “Spyware is a threat to individual rights, like privacy and freedom of expression, but it is also a threat to our collective ability to build democratic and inclusive societies.”

The International Justice Clinic has been working on the threats posed by the global private surveillance industry since 2018, including work on Prof. Kaye’s 2019 surveillance report, as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Opinion and Expression, to the UN Human Rights Council. The Clinic continues to work on the subject and will be hosting a series of workshops this spring to further develop policies to address the threats that the spyware industry poses to human rights and democratic norms.

About the International Justice Clinic

The International Justice Clinic at the University of California, Irvine School of Law seeks to advance human rights norms and protections and integrate them at national, regional, international and corporate levels—all while training the next generation of human rights lawyers. Directed by Prof. David Kaye, former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Clinic has extensive experience addressing threats to human rights, particularly in the digital realm. The Clinic works alongside civil society organizations and other stakeholders from across the globe and emphasizes a multi-faceted approach to human rights advocacy.

About the University of California, Irvine School of Law

The University of California, Irvine School of Law is a visionary law school that provides an innovative and comprehensive curriculum, prioritizes public service, and demonstrates a commitment to diversity within the legal profession. UCI Law students have completed more than 125,000 hours of pro bono work since 2009. Forty-seven percent of UCI Law’s J.D. graduates are people of color. At UCI Law, we are driven to improve our local, national, and global communities by grappling with important issues as scholars, as practitioners and as teachers who are preparing the next generation of leaders. The collaborative and interdisciplinary community at UCI Law includes extraordinary students, world-renowned faculty, dedicated staff, engaged alumni and enthusiastic supporters. More information on UCI Law is available here. Please follow us on Twitter @UCILaw and Facebook @UCIrvineLaw.