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Pegasus Snooping Row: WhatsApp Sticks To Encryption Stance Before IT Panel

Pegasus Snooping Row: WhatsApp Sticks To Encryption Stance Before IT Panel

Public policy director of Facebook India, Ankhi Das, submitted its report to Parliament’s IT panel

Officials from various ministries were also called for the discussions

Pegasus spyware was used to snoop on Whatsapp data of Indian in May 2019

Presenting its views, Facebook India on behalf of Whatsapp, on Friday (December 13), said to the Parliament panel probing the Pegasus snooping scandal that the social media platform is secured with end-to-end encryption and any allowance to access any communication is unlikely from its end.

According to BS, Ankhi Das, public policy director Facebook India,  submitted its report to the parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. The committee had summoned the social media company to hear their views on the issue of citizens data security and privacy.

Besides officials of Facebook India, the committee also took views from cybersecurity experts, representatives of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MeitY), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), and chief secretary of NCT of Delhi.

Moreover, the panel had also invited non-official witnesses of the Pegasus spyware snooping row, which included former BJP leader KN Govindacharya. Notably, Govindacharya, last month, has filed a petition in Supreme Court seeking substantial measures against the social media company. He was represented by his lawyer in the panel meeting.

Earlier, Tharoor, in his letter to panel members had said that cybersecurity is a major issue on the panel’s agenda and it is definitely going to take this up under that rubric. “We will be seeking clarifications from the government,” he added.

Prior to this hearing, the committee had met secretaries of MeitY, MHA and the department of atomic energy. While the ruling alliance members opposed taking up the WhatsApp issue, opposition leaders were in favour of summoning WhatsApp for a discussion.

What Was WhatsApp Snooping Case

In this incident of a privacy breach, Pegasus spyware was used to snoop on Whatsapp data of academicians, lawyers, journalists and activists in India. While the privacy breach incidents took place in May 2019, the scandal attracted more focus in October 2019, after WhatsApp filed a complaint against NSO Group.

In response, NSO Group has said that the company sells Pegasus only to government agencies. The Israeli company also clarified that the software is not designed for spying on human rights activists and journalists.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp, in September 2019, had cautioned the government that there was a spyware attack on 121 Indians which snooped over personal data of 20 Indian users of the messaging app.

Update: December 15: 22:00

An earlier version of the story erroneously mentioned that Ankhi Das is the head of Facebook India.

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