- The timing of the revelation of Pegasus spyware targeting some of the well-known personalities of the nation including a union minister, supreme court judge, politicians, journalists, and activists comes at a most inopportune moment for the Union Government. Hitting the headlines, a day before the commencement of the winter session of the Parliament will surely test the resolve of the ruling dispensation priming up to face opposition onslaught amid the Pandemic induced economic debacle. That many of the crucial bills are lined up for passing had necessitated the floor managers of the Union Government to reach out to all opposition parties seeking cooperation in the smooth conduct of both the Houses. This appears to be jeopardized already going by the ruckus created on the first day of the session.
PC: India Today Web Desk
- Let us delve deep into whether the Pegasus spyware used for surveillance is credible enough. Published reports are part of an international collaborative investigation by Paris-based media non-profit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. These findings have been vetted by no less than 16 media entities from across the world. Further, the technical analysis on smartphones that confirms the presence of the spyware and its methodology was undertaken by the reputed Citizen Lab, housed at the University of Toronto. How one testifies to the credentials or neutrality of these agencies is best left to the experts. However, these disturbing revelations are the second tranche of information on the Pegasus spyware manufactured by Israeli company NSO Group.
- Note that according to NSO, this spyware is sold only to governments to investigate and prevent terrorist and national security incidents. Even applicable regulations cited by them require approval by the Israeli defence ministry as Pegasus is considered a cyber weapon requiring an arms export license. It is a no-brainer to infer the list of targets in India seems to be far removed from any such potential national security investigation. Far from it, the people reported are mostly legislators, journalists, and activists though vociferously opposing the ruling dispensation on matters of varied interests. The moot point to ponder over here is whether these listed citizens were being officially spied on? If so, why?
PC: Dan Arkin
- A convincing answer should be forthcoming. A visible trend to spy on surreptitiously using cutting-edge software tools has caught the imagination across the globe. The jury is still out in India whether such a move impinges on the freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under the Constitution. A democratic country professes unhindered civil liberties which should be protected at all costs in letter and spirit without compromising on lawful security needs. As such, safeguarding against potential abuse of power by any government in power requisitioning privately manufactured spyware is imperative. Against this backdrop, quickly introducing long-pending personal data protection (PDP) law assumes paramount importance.
- Tweaking possible flaws and laying great emphasis on protecting the interest of the individual as well as the nation at large should be the way forward. In the meanwhile, the Government of India should get to the bottom of the claims about Pegasus for its good. Otherwise, expect the winter session of the Parliament to get washed away without any meaningful transactions.