Cong-led parliamentary panels to take up snoopgate

Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi. (PTI photo)

Two parliamentary committees chaired by Congress leaders have turned their attention on the WhatsApp snoopgate that targeted senior politicians, lawyers, journalists and human rights activists.

The parliamentary standing committee on home affairs and information technology, chaired by Anand Sharma and Shashi Tharoor respectively, have decided to seek answers from the Modi-led government on the WhatsApp snooping using the Pegasus spyware developed by Israeli company NSO.

The government has been putting the blame on WhatsApp for not giving adequate detail about the hacking of phones using the spyware developed by NSO, a claim disputed by the global messaging platform that is owned by Facebook.

Sharma said the committee on home affairs was meeting on November 15 to discuss the situation in the newly created Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Home Secretary A K Bhalla is scheduled to brief the committee on the situation in the two Union Territories and members were expected to seek information about the WhatsApp spying case.

Tharoor, the chairman of the committee on information technology, said the committee would seek clarifications from the government on the snoopgate.

The committee on information technology had selected subjects such as citizen’s data security, privacy and Tharoor plans to seek answers from the government under this heading.

At least four politicians — Mamata Banerjee, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Praful Patel and Santosh Bhartiya — have claimed to have been targeted by hackers using the Pegasus software.

‘Watch on rivals’

Opposition leaders have targeted the Modi government over the snooping, accusing it of keeping a watch on its rivals and critics in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Opposition leaders have based their arguments on reports that NSO had sold the Pegasus software only to governments and not private firms.

WhatsApp had filed a lawsuit in a California court against NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance company, holding it responsible for launching cyberattacks on its 1,400 users spread across 20 countries between April and May this year.

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