Facebook-owned WhatsApp on October 31 said Indian journalists, lawyers, human rights activists and politicians were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware Pegasus.
WhatsApp said it was suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, that is reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities' spies hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users spanning across four continents and included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.
After which, there has been a trade-off between the Indian government and the messaging platform, with the government alleging that WhatsApp didn't inform, while WhatsApp has said that it had informed the government on two different occasions. It said that the Indian authorities were informed once in May, and then again in September.
Many journalists, lawyers and journalists have come forth to confirm that they were victims of WhatsApp spyware. Here's a list of people who were affected by the spyware:
Priyanka Gandhi, Congress General Secretary
Praful Patel, Former Union Minister and NCP Leader
Activists and Academics
Anand Teltumbde, Academic
Ashish Gupta, Delhi-Based PUCL Activist
Alok Shukla, Activist
Ajmal Khan, Activist
Bela Bhatia, Chhattisgarh-Based Dalit Rights Activist
Degree Prasad Chauhan, Activist
P Pavana, daughter of Bhima Koregaon accused Varavara Rao
Rupali Jadhav, Human Rights Activist
Saroj Giri, DU Professor
Seema Azad, Activist
Vira Sathidar, Activist-Actor
Vivek Sundara, Activist
Ankit Grewal, Bhima Koregaon Lawyer
Arunank, law graduate
Balla Ravindranath, Hyderabad-based advocate
Mandeep Singh, Lawyer based in Chandigarh
Nihal Singh Rathod, Bhima-Koregaon Lawyer
Ravindranath Bhalla, Advocate
Shalini Gera, Chhattisgarh-Based Lawyer
Jagdish Meshram, Gadchiroli-based lawyer
Rajeev Sharma, Independent Journalist
Shubhranshu Choudhary, Former BBC Journalist
Sidhant Sibal, Journalist with WION
Santosh Bhartiya, Former MP and Journalist
The mobile messaging giant said it had sent a special WhatsApp message to approximately 1,400 users that it has "reason to believe were impacted by this attack to directly inform them about what happened".
WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users globally, of which India alone accounts for about 400 million. Denying allegations, NSO said it provides "technology to licenced government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime" and is not "designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists."
In the past too, WhatsApp has drawn flak from the Indian government on the platform being misused for spreading misinformation that led to incidents of mob lynching. The government has categorically told WhatsApp that it wants the platform to bring in a mechanism to enable tracing of the originator of messages, a demand that WhatsApp has resisted citing privacy issues.
A plea was filed on November 4 in the Supreme Court seeking NIA investigation and lodging of FIR against Facebook, WhatsApp, and NSO Group under the provisions of the Information Technology (IT) Act and the Indian Penal Code for allegedly violating fundamental privacy of Indians.
(Inputs from Agencies)