WhatsApp hacking: Govt questions timing of disclosure, seeks report

Updated: Nov 02, 2019, 08:48 IST | Agencies | New Delhi

The government is also questioning the timing of the disclosure of the hacking incident, particularly against the backdrop of the Centre seeking three months' time from the Supreme Court to come up with rules to curb misuse of social media in the cou

WhatsApp sues NSO Group, an Israeli firm behind the tech that helped spies hack into phones of 1,400 users across 4 continents. Pic/AFP
WhatsApp sues NSO Group, an Israeli firm behind the tech that helped spies hack into phones of 1,400 users across 4 continents. Pic/AFP

New Delhi: The government has expressed concern over WhatsApp not disclosing Pegasus hacking incident during its multiple rounds of discussions with the Centre since June, according to sources.

A senior government functionary, who did not wish to be named, questioned whether this was a rearguard action by WhatsApp to prevent the government from bringing measures on traceability and accountability.

The government is also questioning the timing of the disclosure of the hacking incident, particularly against the backdrop of the Centre seeking three months' time from the Supreme Court to come up with rules to curb misuse of social media in the country.

Sources said that the government would insist on traceability of the source of malicious messages and not content. Facebook-owned WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users globally, of which India alone accounts for about 400 million. WhatsApp has sued NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm that is reportedly behind the technology that helped spies hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users across four continents, including diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.

On Thursday, WhatsApp had said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware Pegasus. Following the disclosure by WhatsApp, the Indian government had asked the messaging platform to explain the matter and list out the measures that have been taken by it to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indians. According to sources, the company has been asked to submit its response by November 4.

Nov 4
Day WhatsApp has to submit its report to the Centre

Have taken strong action: WhatsApp

WhatsApp on Friday said it has taken a "strong action" in the incident and supports the Indian government's stand on the need to safeguard the privacy of all citizens. "We agree with the government of India's strong statement about the need to safeguard the privacy of all Indian citizens. That is why we've taken this strong action to hold cyber attackers accountable and why WhatsApp is so committed to the protection of all user messages through the product we provide," a WhatsApp spokesperson told PTI. However, it did not say on whose behest the phones of journalists and activists across the world were targeted.

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