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“Spying on your phone is like having your house invaded and everything turned upside down”

Something was wrong with the operation of your BQ Aquaris. Jordi Domingo noticed anomalies: «It was a relatively new mobile and it overheated a lotit burned my hands, it was not going as it had to go and I was already thinking about changing it even though it hadn’t been that long since I bought it.” It was the year 2019, and then he tied the dots for those dysfunctions in his terminal.

«I am aware that they spy on me when they notify me from Citizen Lab, with a message from John Scott-Railton, a Canadian researcher working at the University of Toronto. He told me that I would be surprised and that he would find it strange. He told me: ‘I don’t know who you are or what you do, but I have this number because WhatsApp sent it to me and you’ve been the target of a Pegasus attack.”

They had detected a vulnerability and a spy program had entered the instant messaging platform: «He told me that the next day I was going to receive a WhatsApp message, that I knew it was going to be authentic because of certain characteristics that I was going to be able to identify. I didn’t believe it until that confirmation came.”

So it was. It was October 2019. The invasion had been at the beginning of that year, although it was difficult to specify much more. Talks with John Scott-Raitlon continued. “We talked again. He told me: ‘I don’t know what you do. We know that you are not a criminal or a terrorist, because then other filters would have jumped, but we are interested in knowing what you do », he explains.

An investigator from Citizen Lab and also WhatsApp informed him of the intrusion suffered

jordi is agricultural technical engineer, with a master’s degree in territorial planning from the URV and a postgraduate degree in environmental management from the University of Girona. is defined as «a passionate about politics, Catalonia and the Camp de Tarragona». “With photography and writing I express myself better than with words,” he admits on his blog.

At that time –also now–, he exercised his “grassroots activism, like one more”, according to what he says, in the more or less convulsive and mobilized context of the Procés. «He was a member of the local secretariat of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) in Reus, in 2017 and 2018, but in 2019 he had no charge. He went to the demonstrations, like one more, with a low profile. So I was in the PDeCAT, now I am in the ANC, in the Consell per la República and in Junts».

Little by little, Jordi was ascertaining more details of his attack. “I keep having conversations because the researcher tries to explain why everything. They end up telling me that they are doing a worldwide investigation, that what happened affects 1,400 devices around the world. I speak with those responsible for WhatsApp for Europe, Africa and the Middle East and also with the person in charge in the Iberian Peninsula and they explain it to me better, that I have possibly been attacked by a spyware but that they cannot assure me 100%, they do not want to get wet ».

Citizen Lab, the platform of researchers now responsible for publicly uncovering the so-called Catalangate these days, did get more wet; They even gave him a series of recommendations, such as changing his phone. The attack took place, according to what Domingo recounts from what he knows of the investigations, at the beginning of that year 2019, allegedly due to a missed WhatsApp call.

Street and digital mobilization
His interference became known at a time when the then President of Parliament, Roger Torrent, or the leader of the CUP, Anna Gabriel, had also suffered it, with the not insignificant particularity that Domingo was practically anonymous, despite the fact that he worked in the design of a future independence: I haven’t done anything illegal. and I am calm. I don’t know why they did it… other than to scare you, to make you feel afraid. I was working on what a possible digital republic could look like. We came from the referendum, from 155 in 2017, from launching the Consell per la República in 2018, there were demonstrations in the street… and I went, but like so many other people. I was in working groups, of reflection, in technological and digital terms. And then I did that street activism.

Jordi demonstrated in the street and was in reflection groups on the digital world or technology

Always, moreover, under the sovereignist umbrella of the Catalan National Assembly. «For example, I never went to a demonstration of Tsunami Democràtic and I was not at the El Prat airport (referring to the blockade of the infrastructure after the Procés ruling)». The emotional blow was hard, difficult to assimilate. “You feel violated, your privacy has been invaded, no matter what you were doing. Being told that you have been spied on by a program that is only sold to governments makes you feel very bad. If they access your phone it is as if they invaded your life, as if they entered your house, turned everything upside down, without knowing what they took from you, who did it, why and for how long they will have it. If you want something, ask me… That they can look at your conversations, your emails… A fundamental right is being infringed ».

It didn’t stop there indignation and Jordi’s disenchantment, who then did not undertake any type of action (“it should have been something joint,” he says) and came to feel helpless. “Nobody called me or asked me. I am not a public official but I am a citizen like the politician and my rights have also been violated. It seems that my rights are different because I am not a politician », he explains, very critical of the current situation: «I feel a great sorrow, the whole show that is taking place seems very bad to me, they are not able to go to one, at a political level. Do politicians think they are more important than us citizens? Jordi criticizes that “only one person from the Junts national executive tried to do something about it but that stopped there,” he acknowledges, adding: “In the ANC they did care about me and now they have done it again.”

“They wanted to scare”
One of the key questions that Jordi answers is why. «The objective was to intimidate the independence movement and scare people to nullify the independence movement». It is something that, in his case, did happen, at least in part. “Now everything has normalized, but At that time I broke ties. Now I am inside a political party and although I deny them, I think they are necessary. But at the time my activism changes to fear. If they spied on me, they may know where I live. How can I be sure no one is following me? What if they make a movie with me? Well, you get scared and slow down”, explains Jordi, who since then has changed his mobile phone three times –I have never had an iPhone– and has gotten used to having fewer applications, although in truth it does not help much: “Even for the flashlight they could do it.”

Jordi Domingo, with his current mobile phone. Photo: Alba Marine

«My name is Jordi Domingo and I have been illegally investigated by the Spanish authorities for being an activist in favor of Catalan independence». This is how this man from Reus starts a video broadcast these days on social networks by the ANC. “It is worrying. Now it is the independence movement but what can be next?asks Jordi Domingo, who adds: «The 2015 national secrets law, and also another previous one, say that the CNI can spy on anyone who goes against the fundamental principles of the Constitution. What can happen with PAH? Or with the anti-bullfighting, to give two examples? Will they too? Let’s imagine that the extreme right wins and that it decides to investigate the profiles that may be close to the left. Fundamental human rights are violated. You end up thinking: ‘In whose hands are we?’».

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