A parliamentary committee headed by the Congress's Shashi Tharoor will examine the WhatsApp snooping issue today, in which the 31 members would seek details from top government officials on the steps the centre is taking to prevent such incidents. Sources said the lawyers and officials of the messaging platform owned by Facebook have also been called to explain their side of story.
Earlier this month, WhatsApp revealed that more than 120 journalists and activists in India have been the target of surveillance by operators using the Israeli spyware Pegasus.
Facebook, which claimed the snooping took place in April ahead of the national elections, has sued NSO, the Israeli firm that made the software. The social media giant claimed that Pegasus was used to target users not just in India, but across 20 nations.
Facebook has said that it remains committed to protecting messages of its users.
According to an official, the government has asked WhatsApp to present an explanation on the breach of privacy and list out measures taken to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indians.
"Representatives of Ministry of Electronics, Home Affairs and Atomic Energy would brief the standing committee on Citizens data security and privacy issues," a senior functionary in the government told NDTV.
The committee will also discuss the cyberattack on the Kundankulam nuclear plant.
With NSO claiming that its software was only licensed to "vetted and legitimate government agencies", opposition parties accused the centre of "snooping" on journalists and activists.
Several activists and three opposition leaders -- Congress's Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Nationalist Congress Party's Praful Patel - have alleged that their phones were tapped.
Accusing the government of lying, the Congress said WhatsApp had alerted the government about the government in May. "Ravi Shankar Prasad has not once stated that the government was aware, there was not a single PIB press release on the issue," Congress's Randeep Surjewala said.
Government sources, however, denied the claims, saying WhatsApp informed them about the vulnerability of their app in "technical jargon" in May and that the company made no mention of Pegasus spyware and Indian users being targeted.