New Delhi, November 20
A meeting of a parliamentary committee, headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, was marked by sharp differences among its members over whether to take up the WhatsApp snooping issue or not, and the panel discussed the matter only after a vote in the favour.
Sources said the casting vote of Tharoor in favour of taking up the issue, which has become a political row with opposition members raising the matter in Parliament, sealed a long-heated discussion, with secretaries to Home, and Electronics and Information Technology ministries being kept waiting for over two hours.
With the panel members unable to arrive at a conclusion, votes were cast.
Tharoor had earlier written a letter to the members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, saying the alleged use of technology for snooping on Indian citizens was a matter of “grave concern” and it would be discussed at its meeting on Wednesday.
Senior government officials briefed its members on the issue of “Citizens’ data security and privacy”.
Earlier, Facebook-owned WhatsApp said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unidentified entities, using an Israeli spyware—Pegasus.
Earlier, top official sources said WhatsApp had written to the government expressing “regret” over the Pegasus snooping row, and has assured it that the social media giant is taking all security measures to address concerns.
The sources, who requested not to be named, said the government has asked it to reinforce its security wall, and that no more breaches in the messaging platform will be tolerated.
WhatsApp has written to the central government expressing “regret” over the Pegasus snooping row, and has assured that it is taking all security measures to address concerns, top government sources said.
The sources, who requested not to be named, said the government has asked WhatsApp to reinforce its security wall, and that no more breaches at the messaging platform will be tolerated.
According to WhatsApp, the spyware was developed by Israel-based NSO Group and had been used to snoop on about 1,400 users globally, including 121 users from India.
Following the government’s notice seeking more information on the attacks, WhatsApp had responded saying it had alerted the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) in September that 121 Indian users had been targeted by Pegasus.
A WhatsApp spokesperson, in an e-mailed statement, said the company is deeply committed to protecting the privacy of its users in India “by providing industry-leading security for all messages and calls and by staying ahead of advanced threats to user security”.
WhatsApp has over 400 million users in India.
“The government also plays a critical role here and we are committed to continuing to engage them in a timely manner on sensitive issues related to user privacy and security. We regret that we have not met the government’s expectations for proactive engagement on these issues and will strive to do better,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also noted that the company will work with the government to “address their appropriate concerns”. PTI
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