Hyderabad: With the winter session of Parliament currently ongoing, Hyderabad MP and AIMIM national President Asaduddin Owaisi, on November 20, posed six questions to Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, on government’s role in WhatsApp spying.

The minister, however, claimed the breach to be “completely misleading” and called it “an attempt to malign the government of India.”

When Owaisi asked whether the government has taken cognizance of the reports of alleged use and purchase of the Pegasus spyware by Government agencies, the minister’s response was as follows:

“These attempts to malign the Government of India for the reported breach are completely misleading. The government is committed to protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, including the right to privacy. The government operates strictly as per provisions of law and laid down protocols.”

Around 121 users from India affected

When Owaisi asked about the number of people affected, the minister noted that approximately 1,400 people were affected globally, while it is 121 in India. Meanwhile, in reply to the minister’s denial of the government’s role in WhatsApp spying, a furious Owaisi shot six questions on Twitter.

The MP asks which agency purchased Pegasus, deployed it in India, and whether the surveillance was approved by the government as per law.

WhatsApp had filed detailed alerts about the breach by Pegasus to CERT-In (Computer Emergency Response Team-India) twice. In regards to this, Owaisi asks what action the responsible agencies took to investigate this and take action against the perpetrators.

Breach in national security

According to reports, the data collected by Pegasus is stored in foreign servers. It means that the Centre allowed sensitive data of Indian citizens to be stored on an overseas server by deploying malware. “Will the govt investigate this breach in national security?” asks Owaisi.

As per law, surveillance can be carried out only for a maximum of 180 days. However, in a severe violation of the law, Pegasus allows the target to be perpetually under surveillance. The Hyderabad MP asks what the govt has done to investigate and bring to justice those who are responsible for this violation.

Dheeshma Puzhakkal

Dheeshma Puzhakkal is currently a Reporter with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University, she has interned with Greater Kashmir newspaper and NDTV. Dheeshma has also made short films and documentaries. Her documentary ‘Still I Rise’, which is based on sex-trafficking in Hyderabad’s Old City, has earned accolades in several film festivals, such as International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Kerala (IDSFFK). An avid foodie, she loves to travel and listen to stories that others tell. Photography is one of her all-time interests. She has extensively written on satellite-based journalism, health, consumer, and data stories besides covering anti-crime investigative agencies.

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