'Notified relevant Indian government authorities about security issue in May’: WhatsApp on snooping row

On Friday, WhatsApp responding to allegations over breach of privacy of several Indian users using Israeli surveillance software Pegasus, Facebook-owned said that it had notified relevant Indian and international government authorities about the security issue in May.

According to Hindustan Times, WhatsApp in a statement said, "In May we quickly resolved a security issue and notified relevant Indian and international government authorities. Since then we’ve worked to identify targeted users to ask the courts to hold the international spyware firm known as the NSO Group accountable.”

The company also said that it wanted to work with the Indian government to safeguard the privacy of its Indian users. “We agree with the government of India; it’s critical that together we do all we can to protect users from hackers attempting to weaken security. WhatsApp remains committed to the protection of all user messages through the product we provide,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told the leading daily.

In a statement, WhatsApp said, "Our highest priority is the privacy and security of WhatsApp users. In May, we quickly resolved a security issue and notified relevant Indian and international government authorities. Since then we've worked to identify targeted users to ask the courts to hold the international spyware firm known as the NSO Group accountable."

The Home Ministry issued a separate statement on the WhatsApp controversy, saying the government "is committed to protect the fundamental rights of citizens, including the right of privacy and will take strict action against any intermediary responsible for breach of privacy".

An official told the Hindustan Times, that the government is concerned over WhatsApp’s failure to disclose the fact that the messaging platform had been misused to spy on around 1,400 people worldwide, including several human rights activists, lawyers and journalists and lawyers in India.

WhatsApp snooping of human rights activists and journalists in India via an Israeli spyware called Pegasus has snowballed into a major political controversy. Pegasus allegedly exploited WhatsApp's video calling system with installing the spyware via giving missed calls to snoop on 1,400 select users globally, including nearly 30-40 people in India.

The NSO Group limits sales of Pegasus to state intelligence agencies and others. The software has the ability to collect intimate data from a target device. Pegasus spyware can be installed on devices as "exploit links". The Indian government has denied purchasing or planning to buy Pegasus from NSO Group.

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