After the last 24 hours of revelations following the publication of evidence that the surveillance firm NSO Group’s “Pegasus” malware is being leveraged to surveil journalists, activists, and others globally, as well as the launch of a lawsuit against NSO by WhatsApp, there are new concerns specifically regarding the impact in India. News organizations have reported that there is confirmation that Pegasus has been used to snoop on Indian journalists and activists.
Indian Union Minister for IT and Electronics and Minister for Law Ravi Shankar Prasad has made initial statements, expressing the government’s concern regarding these revelations, and defining it as a breach of the privacy of Indian citizens.
“Unfortunately, the government’s statement on Pegasus does not clarify whether any government agencies have dealt with NSO Group or its agents, nor whether they are in any way involved in the use of spyware,” said Raman Jit Singh Chima, Senior International Counsel and Asia Pacific Policy Director at Access Now. “This is a crucial question for the government to answer, since NSO Group claims that it only transacts with governments and their agencies. If the government has not been involved, it must act to establish an independent inquiry into this incident and other related allegations of over-broad, illegal surveillance.”
Access Now believes that this incident underscores the need to reform Indian surveillance practices and legal provisions, which the Union Government’s own expert committee on data protection considers potentially unconstitutional, in view of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the fundamental right to privacy. We further argue that the government must commit to including these measures in any privacy and data protection bill it brings to Parliament, and must expedite its process of letting MPs legislate reforms on this important issue.
Raman Jit Singh Chima, Asia Pacific Policy Director & Senior International Counsel, Access Now – raman @ accessnow.org