Notified Indian govt about snooping in May: WhatsApp

Responding to allegations over breach of privacy of several Indian users on WhatsApp using Israeli surveillance software Pegasus, the Facebook-owned messaging company on Friday stated that it remains committed to protecting all messages of its users.

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.”

According to sources, in May this year, WhatsApp had provided information to CERT-IN, a government agency and the communication was in pure technical jargon without any mention of Israeli Pegasus or the extent of the breach.

“We agree with the Government of India that 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,” the company said.

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The Centre on Thursday sought an explanation from WhatsApp to explain the breach of privacy after the messaging platform informed several Indian users this week that they had been targetted by Pegasus earlier this year.

Union information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad yesterday said that the government is concerned at the breach of privacy of citizens of India and has sought a detailed explanation from the messaging platform.

“We have asked WhatsApp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens,” he tweeted.

According to reports, WhatsApp revealed that journalists and activists in India have been the target of surveillance by operators using the Israeli spyware Pegasus.

The messaging platform said that it had reached out to the people who were targetted but declined to reveal the identities and “exact number” of those who were targeted.

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