IJU demands inquiry into surveillance

NEW DELHI, Nov 1: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) has demanded a judicial inquiry into the surveillance of journalists and others carried out by an Israeli hacker through WhatsApp.
According to media reports, WhatsApp revealed that it had informed several Indian users this week that they had been targeted by Israeli spyware earlier this year in a hacking spree that included journalists, activists, lawyers and senior government officials.
The journalists and activists are believed to have been targets of surveillance for a two-week period, until May, when the general election was held. The users were informed just before WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook, sued Israeli cybersecurity company NSO on Tuesday, alleging that it used WhatsApp servers to spread malware to 1,400 users across 20 countries.
‘Pegasus’, a spyware developed by the NSO, was used to break into the phones during a two-week period in April.
In a statement, IJU Acting President Geetartha Pathak and Secretary-General Sabina Inderjit said “the snooping scandal hits headlines when the Indian government is contemplating to access encrypted and private conversations of citizens on social media such as WhatsApp and Facebook, even though the government says it is concerned over breach of privacy of citizens of India.”
The government has already prepared the revised Information Technology Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, and is set to notify it before 15 January next year. The IJU stated that the government is trying to interfere in the privacy of citizens, notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s verdict upholding the right to privacy of citizenry in 2017 as a fundamental right.
“It is unfortunate that journalists along with others are made targets of surveillance in a country where right to privacy and freedom of expression are fundamental rights,” said the IJU, and demanded a high-level judicial inquiry into the snooping scam involving social media giant WhatsApp.