New Delhi: Days after news reports surfaced that more than 120 journalists and activists in India were spied on through Pegasus spyware, Union Minister of Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday informed the Lok Sabha that the Central government is committed to protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, including the right to privacy. He also said that the IT Act, 2000, has adequate provisions to deal with hacking and spyware.
“The government is committed to protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, including the right to privacy. The government operates strictly as per provisions of law and laid down protocols. There are adequate provisions in the IT Act, 2000, to deal with hacking, spyware etc,” he said in Lok Sabha.
Replying to a question on whether the government has taken cognizance of reports of alleged use and purchase of Pegasus spyware, Prasad aid that some statements have appeared, based on media reports, regarding this. “These attempts to malign the government for reported breach are misleading,” he added.
Prasad said that the government is also working on the Personal Data Protection Bill to safeguard the privacy of citizens, and it is proposed to table it in Parliament.
“The government has taken note of the fact that a spyware/malware affected some WhatsApp users. According to WhatsApp, this spyware was developed by an Israel-based company NSO Group and that it had developed and used Pegasus spyware to attempt to reach mobile phones of a possible number of 1,400 users globally. The users include 121 people from India,” Prasad was quoted as saying by IANS.
The statement from the minister comes at a time when the parliamentary committee has planned to examine the WhatsApp snooping issue in a meeting in which lawyers and officials of Facebook-owned WhatsApp will present their explanation in the recent Pegasus snooping row. The committee is headed by Shashi Tharoor.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that more than 120 journalists and activists in India were spied on through Pegasus, Israeli spyware. Once out in public, this caused a political uproar as Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi reportedly received a message from WhatsApp regarding the spyware as to her phone was also hacked.