NEW DELHI — Mahua Moitra, Trinamool Congress MP from West Bengal, said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s statement on the WhatsApp hacking scandal made clear that the government was using the Pegasus spyware to snoop on phones of civilians.
Union minister Ravi Sankar Prasad said that the government has a ‘well established protocol’ for surveillance, which needed clearance from “high ranking officials” for “clear stated reasons in national interest”. Moitra said that the government’s stand was a “barefaced falsehood”.
Moitra has filed several petitions in the Supreme Court against the government’s efforts to put civilians under surveillance. Last year, she moved court against the home ministry’s decision to allow 10 government agencies to snoop on the computers on citizens.
The case is still pending in the court.
“Meanwhile, they are doing whatever they feel like doing,” Moitra said.
HuffPost India had reported that a client agreement with the Ghana government submitted by Facebook to the court made it clear that there were only two possible parties which could have purchased NSO’s spyware: the Indian government or a foreign government to snoop on Indian individuals.
Moitra said she would not blame WhatsApp entirely for the fiasco. The snooping came to light when Facebook, Whatsapp’s parent company, filed a suit in a California court against the NSO group, the company that makes Pegasus, for exploiting a vulnerability in Whatsapp’s architecture.
“My issue is not with WhatsApp. Why has this happened? This was possible because India doesn’t have proper data protection laws. This has happened because of parliamentary oversight. This has happened because of judicial oversight,” she said.
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