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Standing Committee on IT to take up WhatsApp-Pegasus issue, Kudankulam in Nov 20 meeting

Parliament House

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology is next scheduled to meet on November 20. As per the agenda on the Lok Sabha website, the committee, headed by Shashi Tharoor, will be briefed by representatives of Home Ministry, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) on the subject “citizen’s data security and privacy”.

A member of the standing committee told MediaNama that the WhatsApp issue, wherein the Pegasus spyware was installed in people’s phones using a vulnerability in the app, “will be taken up as it led to the violation of privacy” of a number of Indian citizens. On whether the committee would discuss the cyber attack on Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, the member said, “That would be the logical inference since we deal with data, digital safety, etc.” and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has also been called. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), which is the body in charge of KKNPP, falls under the purview of DAE. MediaNama has reached out to Tharoor for comment.

After news about Indian citizens affected by the Pegasus spyware gained traction, two parliamentary standing committees, on Home Affairs and on IT, had announced that they would look into the matter, as per a PTI report. The Home Affairs committee will discuss this issue at its meeting on November 15.

Dept of Atomic Energy prepares for the meeting

Sanjay Kumar, joint secretary in the DAE, told MediaNama that the Department was preparing a presentation for the meeting and “taking inputs from various departments”. “Basically, it is regarding cyber security,” he said. The DAE will also be prepared to field questions on KKNPP, but he did not know if KKNPP was on the committee’s agenda. “I don’t know because I have to take inputs from concerned units, see the subject matter, and then we will decide. It depends on what the Parliamentary Committee wants to ask. By tomorrow or day after, we will start sending a summary of our perception of what they want. If they require, we will make changes to that.” He also clarified that DAE will not answer any questions related to the reported ISRO breach by the same actors who targeted KKNPP as “ISRO is a separate department so they will confirm separately”.

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