WhatsApp hacking: Govt concerned over non-disclosure

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Updated: November 2, 2019 4:29:36 AM

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users globally, of which India alone accounts for about 400 million.

whatsapp, snoopingWhatsApp 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.

The government on Friday expressed concern over WhatsApp not disclosing the Pegasus hacking incident during its multiple rounds of discussions with the Centre since June.

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 development follows WhatsApp stating on Thursday that Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli spyware Pegasus, leading to a furore over breach of citizens’ privacy.

Following the disclosure by WhatsApp, the government has already 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.

The government source on Friday also questioned the timing of the disclosure of the hacking incident.

This was 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.

In the past too, WhatsApp has drawn flak from the 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. The government is also working on tightening rules of social media companies in India that will increase the accountability of such platforms.

“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. We agree with the government of India 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,” said a WhatsApp spokesperson.

Meanwhile, 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 have 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 news agency PTI.

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