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IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw addresses Parliament on Pegasus Spyware; doesn’t deny usage

The Minister went on the offensive about allegations that several Indian activists, journalists, and politicians had been targeted between 2017 and 2019 by NSO’s Pegasus spyware that is only sold to governments.  Addressing a chaotic first day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw issued a statement in the Lok Sabha on the 'reported use of Pegasus spyware' calling reports by The Wire and its consortium of 15 media organisations as having 'no substance whatsoever'. However, the Minister did not categorically deny the use or purchase of the Israel-based NSO Group's spyware. Instead, he said that the presence of a particular number on the reported database doesn't amount to snooping and that the infected phones have to undergo technical analysis for the same to be proven. Why this matters:  The reported database of phone numbers selected as targets by customers of the NSO Group's Pegasus spyware consists of 50,000 individuals, of which 300 are verified to be Indians. Minutes after the IT minister's address, The Wire reported that Ashwini Vaishnaw himself was among those selected as potential targets for surveillance, joining Prahlad Singh Patel, minister of state for Jal Shakti, and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. "The allegations is that individuals linked were being spied upon. However, the report says the presence of a phone number in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected by Pegasus or subjected to an attempted hack. Without subjecting the phone to this technical analysis it…

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I cover health technology for MediaNama but, really, love all things tech policy. Always willing to chat with a reader! Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

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