The Information and Technology Ministry has sought a detailed response from WhatsApp on the issue of an Israeli spyware that was allegedly used to target Indian journalists and human rights activists through its platform. The instant messaging app has been asked to submit its reply by November 4.
“Government of India is concerned at the breach of privacy of citizens of India on the messaging platform Whatsapp. We have asked Whatsapp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens,” said Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Government of India is concerned at the breach of privacy of citizens of India on the messaging platform Whatsapp. We have asked Whatsapp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/YI9Fg1fWro— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) October 31, 2019
“Government is committed to protecting privacy of all Indian citizens. Govt agencies have a well established protocol for interception, which includes sanction and supervision from highly ranked officials in central & state governments, for clear stated reasons in national interest,” he tweeted.
The Union Minister also raked-up alleged attempts to spy against then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and General VK Singh in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
"Those trying to make political capital out of it need to be gently reminded about the bugging incident in the office of the then eminent Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during UPA regime. Also a gentle reminder of the spying over the then Army Chief Gen. VK Singh," he said.
On Thursday, Facebook-owned WhatsApp said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli sypware Peagasus.
WhatsApp said it was suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, that is reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities' spies to hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users.
These users span across four continents and included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials. However, it did not say on whose behest the phones of journalists and activists across the world were targeted.
WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users globally, of which India alone accounts for about 400 million.
Denying allegations, NSO said it provides "technology to licenced government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime" and is not "designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists."
With PTI Inputs