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Thursday 21 November 2019
India WhatsApp says govt knew 121 Indians' data security had...

WhatsApp says govt knew 121 Indians’ data security had been breached

WhatsApp has replied to the Union IT Ministry, saying it had informed the government once last May and then in September about the snooping

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Before the Lok Sabha election, private data of 121 Indians were targeted through WhatsApp. Last September, the Facebook-owned firm had informed the Indian-owned company. This was the second warning given to the Indian government about violations of users’ privacy. Also, WhatsApp informed the 121 users who were snooped upon about the security breach. WhatsApp had alerted the Union government for the first time last May.

Claiming to be innocent in the matter, the Indian government has sought from WhatsApp the details of the users who were spied upon. The Narendra Modi government claims that they were not informed about the matter. The Centre gave WhatsApp a deadline of 12 hours to explain how the security breach happened.

WhatsApp has sent a reply to the Union IT ministry. It says that was brought to the notice of the Centre in the first round last May. Not only this, Mark Zuckerberg’s company wrote to the Centre once again in the wake of the information on spying into 121 Indian users’ accounts using Israeli spyware Pegasus in early September.

WhatsApp recently reported that an Israeli cybersecurity firm had tried to sneak, using NSO group’s spyware Pegasus, into the accounts of about 1,400 users in 23 countries across four continents. The targets were diplomats, anti-establishment leaders, journalists and bureaucrats. Among them were Indians.

The NSO has stated that it sells its spyware to governments alone.

The Ministry of Information Technology has acknowledged the receipt of the letter. Although they claim, the content therein is unclear.

The BJP is but not in a defensive mood. It has questioned if WhatsApp had contacted the targeted people first, why they did not raise a din.

Two Congress MP-led parliamentary panels will examine the WhatsApp snooping case and will seek details from top government officials including the home secretary. WhatsApp had said three days ago that mainly Indian journalists and human rights activists were spied upon by unnamed entities using Israeli spyware Pegasus. Congress politician Anand Sharma, who chairs the parliamentary standing committing on home affairs, said this issue will be taken up at the panel’s next meeting on 15 November, describing the entire WhatsApp snooping episode as worrisome.

The home secretary will brief the panel on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the next meeting. “In that meeting, this issue will also be discussed and we will seek details from the secretary,” Sharma said.

Shashi Tharoor, who heads the parliamentary standing committee on information technology, said the panel would share its concerns after consulting other members via emails.

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