Allegations that hundreds of numbers in India were potential targets of Pegasus spyware supplied to several governments worldwide will be taken up by the parliamentary panel on IT headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on July 28.
The Standing Committee will discuss “citizens’ data security and privacy,” said a statement, adding that representatives of the Ministry of Electronics and IT, the Home Ministry and Ministry of Communications will be called and asked on the subject.
In 2019, WhatsApp’s vulnerability to the Pegasus spyware was brought before the committee.
Parliament has been disrupted frequently over the last two days over reports that Israeli-made Pegasus spyware – sold only to governments – was used to snoop on journalists, activists and politicians.
The Wire, Washington Post and other media partners in the “Pegasus project” have revealed that the numbers of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, other opposition politicians, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two union ministers, Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee and some 40 journalists were selected as potential targets of snooping. There is no evidence that all numbers found on a leaked database were hacked.
The government has denied any role in snooping. There is no substance to the reports of spying, said new IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in parliament on Monday, hours before he was revealed to be one of the potential targets.
The country has a well-established procedure in which lawful interception of electronic communication was carried out for the purpose of national security, particularly in the case of a public emergency or in the interest of public safety, the minister said, adding that the rules ensured that “unauthorised surveillance does not occur.”
Shashi Tharoor said the Pegasus reveal was a matter of “serious national security concern” and the government needed to give an explanation on it.
“It has been proved that phones examined in India had an invasion of Pegasus. Since this product is only sold to vetted governments, the question arises which government? If the Government of India says they have not done it, some other government did it, then it is a more serious national security concern,” Mr Tharoor told news agency ANI.
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