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Over The Top Allegations To Malign Indian Democracy: Centre On Reports About Using Pegasus Spyware For Snooping Journalists

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
19 July 2021 11:53 AM GMT
Over The Top Allegations To Malign Indian Democracy: Centre On Reports About Using Pegasus Spyware For Snooping Journalists
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The Central Government on Monday denied all 'over the top allegations' of using Pegasus Spyware to snoop on opposition leaders, journalists, etc.The newly appointed IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav, while making a statement in this regard in Lok Sabha today, said,"The basis of this report is that there is consortium which has got access to leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers. The allegation...

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The Central Government on Monday denied all 'over the top allegations' of using Pegasus Spyware to snoop on opposition leaders, journalists, etc.

The newly appointed IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav, while making a statement in this regard in Lok Sabha today, said,

"The basis of this report is that there is consortium which has got access to leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers. The allegation is that individuals linked to these phone numbers were being spied upon. However, the report says that the presence of a phone no. in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subjected to an attempted hack. Without subjecting the phone to this technical analysis it is not possible to conceivably state whether it was hacked or successfully compromised."

He pointed out that similar claims were made regarding use of Pegasus on Whatsapp. However, those claims had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties including owner of the alleged spyware, NSO.

As per a report of Amnesty, at least 40 journalists from India were selected as potential targets between 2017-2021, with some of their phones being infected with Pegasus Spyware as recently as June 2021. "In India, at least 40 journalists from nearly every major media outlet in the country were selected as potential targets between 2017-2021. Forensic tests revealed the phones of Siddharth Varadarajan and MK Venu, co-founders of independent online outlet The Wire, were infected with Pegasus spyware as recently as June 2021.", the report had said.

The Minister said that the report itself clarifies that presence of a number in the list does not amount to snooping. He further informed the House that NSO itself has denied the allegations, claiming that the news reports are based on 'misleading interpretation' of leaked data from basic information
"The data has nothing to do with surveillance or with NSO so there can be no factual basis to suggest that the use of data somehow relates to surveillance," NSO has claimed, adding that most of its clients are Western countries.

The Minister has assured that India has an established protocol when it comes to surveillance.

"Any form of illegal surveillance is not possible with the checks and balances in our laws and robust institution. In India there is a well established procedure though which lawful interception of electronic communication is carried for the purpose of national security, particularly on the occurrence of a any public emergency or in the interest of public safety by agencies at the Centre's request. The request for these lawful interception of electronic communication are made as per the relevant rules under the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and Section 69 of the IT Act, 2000.

Request for interception is approved by competent authority and there is a very well established oversight mechanism (over State Governments) in the form of a review Committee headed by Union cabinet secretary, the Minister added.

The law also provides an adjudicating process for those people who are adversely affected by any such incident. The procedure ensures that monitoring of any information is done as per due process of law, the Minister concluded.



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