Messaging service provider WhatsApp has "expressed regret" over the Pegasus snooping controversy and assured the government of all possible steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future, sources said on Wednesday.
They also claimed that WhatsApp, with over 400 million users in India, has agreed to reinforce its security wall in the face of warnings that no more breaches of the kind will be tolerated.
These assurances from the messaging service provider come in the midst of a phone-tapping controversy where unknown individuals targeted 121 Indian journalists and activists - among 1,400 users across the world - by bugging their phones with Israel-based NSO Group's Pegasus spyware. Soon, the government found itself being accused of using the spyware to snoop on those opposed to its political ideals.
The government has denied the allegation. "The government is committed to protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, including their right to privacy. It operates strictly as per the provisions of the law and laid-down protocols. There are adequate provisions in the Information Technology Act-2000 to deal with hacking and spyware," Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad stated in Parliament earlier today.
According to sources, a WhatsApp spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company was deeply committed to protecting the privacy of its users in India "by providing industry-leading security for all messages and calls and by staying ahead of advanced threats to user security".
"The government also plays a critical role here and we are committed to continue engaging them in a timely manner on sensitive issues related to user privacy and security. We regret that we have not met the government's expectations for proactive engagement on these issues and will strive to do better," the spokesperson said in the email.
Earlier today, a 31-member committee headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor questioned top government officials on the snooping racket.
(With inputs from PTI)