Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Friday said it agreed with the strong statement made by the Indian government about the need to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens.
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday that the government “is concerned at the breach of privacy of citizens of India on the messaging platform WhatsApp”.
In the first official reaction, a WhatsApp spokesperson said, “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.”
The Home Ministry issued a separate statement on the WhatsApp controversy, saying the government “is committed to protect the fundamental rights of citizens, including the right of privacy and will take strict action against any intermediary responsible for breach of privacy”.
WhatsApp snooping of human rights activists and journalists in India via an Israeli spyware called Pegasus has snowballed into a major political controversy.
Pegasus allegedly exploited WhatsApp’s video calling system with installing the spyware via giving missed calls to snoop on 1,400 select users globally, including nearly 30-40 people in India.
The NSO Group limits sales of Pegasus to state intelligence agencies and others. The software has the ability to collect intimate data from a target device. Pegasus spyware can be installed on devices as “exploit links”.
The Indian government has denied purchasing or planning to buy Pegasus from NSO Group.