NEW DELHI: The latest revelation by WhatsApp that Indian journalists and human rights activists have been snooped by an Israeli software company could be a ploy by the messaging company to build pressure on governments to push back on their demands on traceability, highly-placed official sources said.
“WhatsApp officials have met the Indian government in the last five months. This incident is of August… then why WhatsApp did not inform us that time. Looking at our demand, now US, UK and Australia have also raised pitch for traceability. So this is too much of a coincidence. This could be an attempt by WhatsApp to build pressure on countries to push back on growing global opinion for traceability using this example,” sources said.
They said under IT Act Section 70 (B), WhatsApp is bound to inform the Indian government about such incidents, but they informed other countries.
For one year, the government has been asking them (WhatsApp) to take steps and ensure traceability of fake and malicious news and they may be using this case to show that the data could be compromised in sharing traceability of information, the sources added.
The IT Ministry had on Thursday asked WhatappAto explain the breach.
“We have asked WhatsApp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens,” Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said on Thursday while assuring that the government was committed to protecting the privacy of all Indian citizens.
“Government agencies have a well-established protocol for an interception from highly ranked officials in Central and state governments for clearly stated reasons in the national interest,” he had said.
It is believed that academics, lawyers, Dalit activists and journalists in India were contacted and alerted by WhatsApp that their phones had been under state-of-the-art surveillance for a two-week period until May 2019. However, it did not say on whose behest the phones of journalists and activists across the world were targeted.
WhatsApp also said it was suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, that is reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities’ spies to hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users.
The disclosure follows law suit filed in a US federal court in San Francisco in which WhatsApp alleged that the Israeli NSO Group targeted some 1,400 WhatsApp users with Pegasus.