The Information Technology ministry on Thursday sought a detailed response from WhatsApp by 4 November on the issue of an Israeli spyware that was allegedly used to target Indian journalists and human rights activists through its platform.
Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted that the Centre was concerned at the breach of privacy and has demanded an explanation and combat plan from the Facebook-owned messaging platform.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs was also quoted by ANI as saying, "Some statements have appeared based on reports in media regarding breach of privacy of Indian citizens on WhatsApp. Attempts to malign the government for the reported breach are completely misleading, The government will take action against any intermediary for breach of privacy."
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
On Thursday, WhatsApp said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli sypware Pegasus. The company 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 Centre's statement tweeted by Prasad detailed the government's protocol to deal with interceptions. "We have asked Whatsapp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens. The government is committed to protecting the privacy of all Indian citizens. 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 statement read.
The tweet from Prasad also addressed those criticising the government over the cyber security breach. The statement added, "Those trying to make political capital out of it (the breach) 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 General VK Singh. These are instances of breach of privacy of highly reputed individuals, for personal whims and fancies of a family."
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Oct 31, 2019 18:44:34 IST