Home / News

Biden Administration Bans Federal Agencies from Using Commercial Spyware

President Joe Biden speaking at an event in the East Room of the White House on March 23.

The Biden administration has announced an executive order that would ban U.S. federal agencies from using commercially developed spyware that poses threats to human rights and national security. This powerful surveillance technology often exploits previously undisclosed flaws found in an iPhone or Android’s software to steal a person’s photos, contacts, call logs, messages and real-time location data. It has been used to target journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders who are critical of their government.

The criteria of the executive order would likely affect known government spyware makers and vendors known to sell to authoritarian governments that commit human rights abuses, including NSO Group, Cytrox and Candiru. It includes both domestic and foreign-made spyware, as to not incentivize companies to relocate to the United States, but the list of banned spyware would not necessarily be made public.

The order comes after several U.S. government personnel had their phones targeted, including former Meta trust and safety manager Artemis Seaford, who holds both U.S. and Greek passports, and several U.S. Embassy employees in Uganda. At least 50 U.S. federal employees in 10 countries on multiple continents are suspected or confirmed as being compromised by spyware, though the actual number may be higher.

The FBI reportedly bought a license for an Israeli company’s spyware for research and development, and the Drug Enforcement Administration uses Graphite, a spyware tool developed by an Israel-based company. The DEA claims to only use this tool outside of the U.S., but would not say if Americans are targeted.

The executive order is the latest in a rash of responses by the executive branch in recent weeks following years of congressional inaction on human rights and national security. It can be revoked at any time, including by any subsequent administration.

By CircleID Reporter

CircleID’s internal staff reporting on news tips and developing stories. Do you have information the professional Internet community should be aware of? Contact us.

Visit Page

Filed Under


Comment Title:

  Notify me of follow-up comments

We encourage you to post comments and engage in discussions that advance this post through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can report it using the link at the end of each comment. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of CircleID. For more information on our comment policy, see Codes of Conduct.

CircleID Newsletter The Weekly Wrap

More and more professionals are choosing to publish critical posts on CircleID from all corners of the Internet industry. If you find it hard to keep up daily, consider subscribing to our weekly digest. We will provide you a convenient summary report once a week sent directly to your inbox. It's a quick and easy read.

I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet



Threat Intelligence

Sponsored byWhoisXML API

IPv4 Markets

Sponsored byIPv4.Global


Sponsored byVerisign

Domain Names

Sponsored byVerisign

Brand Protection

Sponsored byCSC

New TLDs

Sponsored byRadix


Sponsored byDNIB.com