Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday mocked the government’s notice to WhatsApp, which came after reports that several Indian users were targeted by spyware on the messaging platform. Gandhi tweeted to say that the Centre’s notice to WhatsApp was like them asking Dassault who “made money on the sale of Rafale jets to India”.
Gandhi has consistently alleged of a corrupt deal between India and France to buy Rafale defence jets. The alleged corruption was a main poll plank during the Congress’ 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign as well.
The Congress on Thursday alleged that the government has been “caught snooping” and should be taken to the Supreme Court for accountability after several Indian users were targeted by spyware on the messaging platform WhatsApp.
“Modi govt caught snooping,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted. “Appalling but not surprising! After all, BJP government - 1. Fought against our right to privacy. 2. Set up a multi crore surveillance structure until stopped by SC. SC must take immediate cognisance and issue notice to BJP government.”
Surjewala added that a government that spies on journalists, activists, Opposition leaders, and one that treats its own citizens as criminals has lost the right to lead our democracy. “We urge the SC to take suo moto cognisance of these illegal activities and to hold this government to account,” he said.
He also questioned Union Minister of Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad about which government agency bought the Israeli spyware Pegasus and who authorised its use.
Surjewala claimed that data theft and fraud has become a norm in the Narendra Modi-led government. “Is this why Modi ji calls Data the new Oil [for BJP Machine],” he asked. “1.3 million Indian Payment Card Details are up for sale on Dark Web putting the card holders vulnerable to yet another synchronised fraud.”
Ravi Shankar Prasad had hit out at the Opposition Congress on Thursday, and accused them of snooping on “highly reputed individuals” at the instance of one family. He reminded the Congress of snooping scandals that had taken place under its watch.
In a series of tweets, the information technology minister said the government is committed to protecting the privacy of citizens. Prasad added that state agencies have a well-established protocol for interception for clearly stated reasons in the national interest.
WhatsApp on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, an Israeli cyber intelligence firm whose spyware Pegasus was used to target around 1,400 users globally during a two-week period in May. NSO Group has disputed the allegations but said it has sold its spyware only to government agencies.
So far, Scroll.in has confirmed the identities of 14 of the targeted individuals. Some of them also suggested that Indian government agencies may have been involved in the surveillance, as they were informed by a Canada-based cyber security group that is assisting WhatsApp in investigating the spyware attack.
Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.