iPhone alert: Clear air on allegations of unlawful surveillance - The Tribune India

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iPhone alert

Clear air on allegations of unlawful surveillance

iPhone alert

Photo for representational purpose only. - Reuters file photo



NOTWITHSTANDING the clarification on its alert by Apple, the issues of unlawful surveillance, breach of right to privacy and data vulnerability are back in focus. Several Opposition leaders raised the hacking alarm after receiving messages warning that state-sponsored attackers may be targeting their iPhones. Apple later claimed that some threat notifications may be false alarms. The Centre has said it is taking the matter seriously and that the warning message was not unique to India but had been issued globally. The tech giant has been asked to join the probe. It’s critical to clear the air. In 2021, similar allegations of unfettered state surveillance had become a rallying point. It was reported that several activists, journalists and politicians had been targeted with the use of Israeli firm NSO’s Pegasus spyware that is only sold to nation-states. Troubling questions are again being asked about unlawful manipulation of mobile devices for political objectives.

Pegasus is able to surreptitiously read encrypted messages, listen in, turn on the phone camera and microphone remotely and continuously track the location. A Supreme Court-appointed committee found no conclusive evidence on the use of the spyware in the phones that were examined. It, however, noted that the Centre had not cooperated. Ambiguity persists on unauthorised surveillance. Last month, Apple issued an emergency software update after being warned that an unknown vulnerability allowed NSO Group to install its spyware on iPhones and iPads.

When the apex court declared privacy as a fundamental right in 2017, it was hailed as a turning point for firming up constitutional provisions to ensure data protection. The need for an effective oversight mechanism cannot be overstated as red flags are frequently raised about citing national security as a pretext to engage in pervasive surveillance. Any violation of individual and data protection rights tears apart the democratic fabric. It’s unacceptable.


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