November 07, 2019

TMC MP Mahua Moitra Hints At Moving Court About Israeli Firm NSO Group Meeting Top Cops To Sell Them Its Spyware

[ By Bobby Anthony ]


Trinamool Congress (TMC) Member of Parliament Mahua Moitra, who also happens to be a member of the parliamentary standing committee on information technology, has hinted at plans to move the court about Israeli company NSO Group meeting police commissioners to sell them its spyware.

Moitra stated that she plans to “wait and watch” for a few days before knocking on the doors of courts about the WhatsApp privacy breach. She also claimed to have information that the Israeli company NSO Group met several police commissioners in different cities to sell its Pegasus spyware, hinting that the central government knew about it.

Incidentally, her statement comes after Shashi Tharoor, who is the chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, asking members to submit suggestions about the WhatsApp snooping row.

Tharoor has mentioned that the parliamentary committee must look into illegal spying and surveillance on Indian citizens using WhatsApp through spyware installed by the Israeli firm NSO Group.

In a statement to members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, Tharoor also stated, “There is no indication that the government has complained to the NSO Group about its action in installing the hack required to intercept communications. This is all the more curious since reports suggest that the NSO Group only provided the technology to governmental bodies and not private citizens”.

Incidentally, WhatsApp has sued the NSO Group in a US court for allegedly helping governments hack phones of at least 1,400 users across the world, including 121 people in India. Those targeted include diplomats, political dissidents, activists, journalists and senior officials.

It may be recalled that RSS ideologue KN Govindacharya recently moved the Supreme Court seeking a police case against WhatsApp, its owner Facebook, and NSO Group for violating the privacy of Indian citizens.

As a matter of fact, Mahua Moitra too has sought to be impleaded in a case involving traceability of social media messages and the linking of Aadhaar with social media accounts.

The social media case that the Supreme Court is hearing will be crucial for WhatsApp, since it will decide whether WhatsApp will be have to fingerprint each message so that they can be traced to their original senders.

Moitra said while tracing messages was possible, the question was whether it should be done. “The technicality is not a problem, it is the intent. Why snoop on your own people without procedural guarantee?” she asked.

​Moitra described legitimacy, necessity, proportionality and procedural guarantees as the “four tests of surveillance” and said there was no data protection law to guard citizens against unwarranted surveillance. “There is no parliamentary or judicial oversight. Basically, there is an open ground and the government can go and buy all this (spyware),” she said.

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