Follow Us

Biden bans federal use of spyware, doesn't detail what technologies are banned

Suspicions over FBI corruption and potential use of such programs has led lawmakers to demand that the agency be transparent about its digital activities.

Published: March 28, 2023 7:05pm

President Joe Biden has restricted the federal government from using spyware, but has not specified exactly what technologies he has targeted.

In an executive order on Monday, Biden banned intelligence, defense, law enforcement, and the rest of the federal government from using spyware if the technology itself presents a security risk to the government or U.S. citizens, according to the Washington Times.

Spyware is a program one installs to a target's computer that then monitors the user's activity and transmits it to another party. The administration has refused to provide a list of software that the government will not use.

The administration aims to reduce spying on U.S. diplomats by foreign adversaries by first limiting Washington's own practices in pursuit of a reciprocal approach.

The order does not block federal agencies from obtaining spyware for testing purposes. The FBI, for instance, obtained a license for spyware Pegasus in 2022 so as to understand the program's function, the Times noted.

Suspicions over FBI corruption and potential use of such programs has led lawmakers to demand that the agency be transparent about its digital activities.

"The American people have a right to know the scale of the FBI’s hacking activities and the rules that govern the use of this controversial surveillance technique," Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray in December last year.

Wray has contended that the FBI never used Pegasus and merely acquired the license to learn how it worked.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook