India’s govt asks WhatsApp to explain that journalists and human rights activists in India have been targets of surveillance

Researcher Ross Tapsell, director of the Australian National University (ANU) Malaysia Institute, said smartphones were ‘used extensively to circumvent mainstream media discourse, and as a subversive device for circulating anti-government messages’ in the period leading up to GE14. — Reuters pic

NEW DELHI, Oct 31, 2019, The Economic Times. With WhatsApp revealing that Indian scribes and human rights activists were among users targeted by an Israeli spyware, Government on Thursday asked the Facebook-owned messaging platform to explain the breach and list-out measures that have been taken to safeguard privacy of millions of Indians, The Economic Times reported.

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted that the government is committed to protecting the privacy of Indian citizens. He asserted that government agencies have a “well-established protocol for interception which includes sanction and supervision from highly ranked officials in central and state governments, for clear stated reasons in national interest”.

“The Government of India is concerned over 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,” Prasad said.

“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 V. K. Singh,” Prasad said.

Earlier on Thursday, the Congress alleged that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government has been “caught snooping” after WhatsApp said journalists and human rights activists in India have been targets of surveillance, and urged the Supreme Court to hold the Centre accountable over the issue.

Facebook-owned messaging platform said Indian journalists and human right activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware Pegasus.

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.

The information technology ministry has meanwhile sought a detailed response from WhatsApp on the issue and asked the platform to submit its reply by November 4.

Share it

Exclusive: Beyond the Covid-19 world's coverage