Congress president Sonia Gandhi has hit out at the centre over the snooping row triggered by WhatsApp's allegation that an Israeli spyware was used to target Indian users earlier this year, saying such activities are "illegal, un-constitutional and shameful". She made the remarks today at a meeting of the party's general secretaries and state in-charges.
"There are so many other issues of which you will be aware. The latest shocking revelation that through the Israeli Pegasus software, acquired by the Modi government, snooping and spying activities on activists, journalists and political persons have taken place. These activities are not only illegal and un-constitutional, they are shameful," she said at the meet.
Mrs Gandhi also attacked the government over the economic slowdown. "As a citizen and as a member of the responsible opposition, it pains me to see the Indian economy under siege. What is even more worrying is that the government is in complete denial. Instead of acknowledging the severe slowdown and looking for a comprehensive resolution, Prime Minister Modi is too busy managing headlines and events," she said.
WhatsApp's parent company, Facebook, has sued NSO, the Israeli firm that developed spyware Pegasus, in the United States, alleging it used the messenger's server to spread malware to 1,400 users across 20 countries. The company confirmed on Friday that it had informed several Indian users, including activists and journalists, that they were also targeted by the spyware.
The spyware gave snoops access to users' messages, calls and passwords as it took over the phone's operating system. It could also turn the mobile into a microphone that could listen to conversations in a room.
BJP's working president JP Nadda launched a counterattack at Mrs Gandhi, alleging former Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee and ex-chief of army VK Singh were snooped on during the UPA regime.
While the Govt has already clarified its stand on this issue, perhaps Mrs Gandhi could enlighten the nation about who at 10 Janpath authorised snooping on Shri Pranab Mukherjee when he was a minister in UPA & Gen VK Singh when he was the Army Chief!https://t.co/7aTPEcjQt5— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) November 2, 2019
After the Congress alleged on Friday that snooping was carried out at the behest of the Modi government, the centre clarified it operates strictly as per provisions of law and laid down protocols.
WhatsApp in its reply to the centre said it had informed the Indian government in May about the breach and resolved the issue.