The European Parliament on Thursday created a “committee of inquiry” to probe accusations over the use of Pegasus spyware by governments in the bloc, notably in Hungary and Poland.
Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to “investigate alleged breaches of EU law in the use of the surveillance software by, among others, Hungary and Poland”, a statement said.
The 38-member committee “is going to look into existing national laws regulating surveillance, and whether Pegasus spyware was used for political purposes against, for example, journalists, politicians and lawyers”, it said.
The Pegasus malware, created by Israeli technology firm the NSO Group, was engulfed in controversy last July after a collaborative investigation by several media outlets reported that a string of governments around the world had used it to spy on critics and opponents.
Hungary was listed by the investigative journalism consortium as a potential user of Pegasus, with targets including journalists, lawyers and other public figures.
A senior official in Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz confirmed that the country had used the software, but said it had not been used to illegally spy on the countries citizens.
Poland’s powerful ruling party leader admitted in January that the country also bought the Israeli spyware, but dismissed claims it was used against the opposition.
Citizen Lab, a cyber security watchdog based in Canada, has said that Pegasus was used against Polish opposition figures.
Pegasus can turn smartphones into pocket spying devices, allowing the user to read the target’s messages, track their location, and even turn on their camera and microphone without their knowledge.