By Associated Press - Thursday, February 14, 2019

JERUSALEM (AP) - An Israeli software firm known for its phone-surveillance technology said Thursday that it has been re-acquired by its founders.

The NSO group announced that U.S.-based private equity firm Francisco Partners sold the company to its management, with support with the European private equity firm Novalpina Capital.

The company did not reveal terms of the deal, but Israeli media said the transaction valued NSO at $1 billion. NSO was sold in 2014 to Francisco Partners for $130 million.

NSO says it sells its technology to Israel-approved governments to help them stop militants and criminals. It says it has dozens of customers and posted revenue over $250 million last year.

“I am proud of what the company and our employees have achieved since we were founded in 2010. Together we have built an amazing technology company that is making the world a safer place,” said company co-founder Shalev Hulio.

But researchers have found evidence it has sold its spyware to governments with questionable human rights records, and the company has repeatedly found itself at the center of controversies over privacy and abusive surveillance.

A recent Associated Press investigation found that critics of the NSO Group were targeted in elaborate undercover operations in which operatives tried to discredit them. NSO has denied involvement.

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