In startling claim, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala on Sunday claimed that Priyanka Gandhi was among the prominent people from India whose WhatsApp account was hacked by unidentified hackers using the Israeli spyware Pegasus. "I want to tell that Priyanka Gandhi also received a similar message from WhatsApp around the same time," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said while responding to a question about Praful Patel and Mamata Banerjee receiving messages from the Facebook-owned instant messaging platform.
Surjewala said that WhatsApp had alerted the Modi government about the hacking twice before making it public. “Despite two alerts, the BJP govt miserably failed in taking any action to protect the privacy of citizens. Could this breach of privacy have taken place without the consent of the BJP government?” he asked.
On Thursday, Facebook-owned WhatsApp said that several Indians, including journalists and human rights activists, were among the 1400 people globally spied upon by unnamed entities using the Israeli spyware Pegasus. The NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm who developed Pegasus, denied the allegations and said that it sell the spyware only to vetted government agencies.
"The sole purpose of NSO is to provide technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime," news agency PTI quoted the Israeli surveillance firm as saying.
The statement from the NSO appeared to point fingers at the central government agencies. The government, however, denied having any involvement and asked WhatsApp to explain the breach and measures it is taking to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens.
Earlier, on Saturday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also accused the Modi government of tapping her phone and demanded a thorough investigation into the WhatsApp snoopgate. "My phone is tapped. I know that because I have got information and have evidence with me. The government knows it because it is they who are doing it. This is happening at the behest of the central government and 2-3 state governments. I will not name the states but one is a BJP-ruled state," Banerjee said.
According to Scroll.in, at least 12 people have so far confirmed that they were the targets of the Israeli spyware. Chhattisgarh-based activist Shalini Gera, who is the lawyer of Bhima Koregaon case accused Sudha Bharadwaj and Nihalsing Rathod, lawyer of another Bhima Koregaon case accused Surendra Gadling were among the targets of the surveillance.
Rights activists Bela Bhatia and Degree Prasad Chauhan, academic and writer on Dalit issues Anand Teltumbde, former BBC journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary Delhi-based activist Ashish Gupta, Allahabad-based Civil Liberties Activist Seema Azad, social and environmental activist Vivek Sundara, Delhi University assistant professor Saroj Giri, WION journalist Sidhant Sibal and columnist Rajeev Sharma were the other victims of the Pegasus snooping.
Watch Full Press Conference Of Congress On WhatsApp Snooping