“And, Sir, to the best of my knowledge, no unauthorised interception has been done,” IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed the Rajya Sabha on November 28, wrapping another unsatisfying chapter in the saga of “Did the Indian government purchase Israeli spyware Pegasus to spy on its citizens?”. Despite being asked by at least five different MPs during the debate, Prasad did not categorically confirm or deny whether the government purchased the spyware. This non-answer, similar to the one given to MP Dayanidhi Maran on November 19 in Lok Sabha, suggests that Pegasus was indeed purchased by the Indian government to carry out “lawful” interception. The repeated lack of categorical denial by the government, both by MeitY and Ministry of Home Affairs, is concerning. Sticking to the script, Prasad cited Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, Section 5 of the Telegraph Act and the standard operating procedure under which people can be legally surveilled by the state. Interception can be authorised by the Home Secretary in case of the central government, and the State Home Secretary in the case of a state government. Government’s stance on Pegasus-WhatsApp Row CERT-In intends to audit WhatsApp’s systems: Prasad revealed to Rajya Sabha that on November 9, CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) wrote to WhatsApp, seeking more information, including a need to conduct an audit and inspection of WhatsApp’s security systems and processes. Government finally sent a notice to the NSO Group on November 26: A number of parliamentarians had asked during the…
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