NEW DELHI, Oct 31 - The government is committed to protecting fundamental rights of citizens and reports of breach of people�s privacy are an attempt to malign India, Home Ministry officials said on Thursday in the wake of the WhatsApp snooping controversy.
The officials said the government will take strict action against any intermediary responsible for breach of privacy of citizens. �Some statements have appeared based on reports in media, regarding breach of privacy of Indian citizens on WhatsApp. These attempts to malign... India for the reported breach are... misleading,� an official said.
The Central government is committed to protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, including the right to privacy, the official said, adding, �It is clarified that the Government of India operates strictly as per provisions of law and laid down protocols. There are adequate safeguards to ensure that no innocent citizen is harassed or his privacy breached.�
Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Thursday said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware Peagasus.
Meanwhile, the Congress alleged that the Narendra Modi government has been �caught snooping� after WhatsApp said that journalists and human rights activists in India have been targets of surveillance.
The party urged the Supreme Court to hold the Centre accountable over the issue. �A government that spies on journalists/activists/opposition leaders and treats its own citizens like criminals has lost the right to lead in our democracy. We urge the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognizance of these illegal activities and to hold this government to account,� Congress�s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
He also posted questions on Twitter for Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad over the issue: �1. Which agency of GOI (Government of India) has purchased and deployed the Pegasus Surveillance Software? 2. Who � PMO or NSA � authorised the purchase? 3. What action do you intend on taking against the guilty?�
WhatsApp said it was suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, that is reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities� spies to hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users. These users span across four continents and included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials. � PTI