Kolkata, Nov 2 : Assailing the Narendra Modi government over accusations of public surveillance through WhatsApp, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday questioned the kind of freedom enjoyed by Indian citizens who can’t even talk safely and requested the prime minister to take care of the issue.
“Yes, I know that the government is using this Israeli NSO to watch the activities of the politicians, the media, lawyers, even judges, and IAS, IPS officers, social activists along with other important personalities. It’s true. This information is not wrong,” she said, joining forces with other opposition parties who have upped the ante against the Modi government on the issue.
Banerjee said though the constitution guarantees the freedom of the press, and the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, “total spying was on” and whether it be landlines, or mobiles, or even WhatsApp calls, “nothing was secure”.
“What sort of freedom do we have now when we can’t even talk? When we talk, that is also entirely recorded and some people listen to them. Earlier WhatsApp used to be secure. Now there is an agency which can listen to WhatsApp calls also,” Banerjee told mediapersons at the state secretariat Nabanna.
“Total spying is on. It is a very serious situation. I will request the prime minister to take care of this,” she said.
Banerjee alleged that the Israeli NSO has supplied software to the government, and the agencies were now using it.
“And it is a fact that Israel, this NSO they have supplied this to the government. And there are so many agencies, that are using it,” she said.
WhatsApp snooping of human rights activists and journalists in India via an Israeli spyware called Pegasus has snowballed into a major political controversy. Pegasus allegedly exploited WhatsApp’s video calling system by installing the spyware via giving missed calls to snoop on 1,400 select users globally, including nearly 30-40 people in India.
The owner of Pegasus, Israel-based NSO Group, limits the sale of the spyware to state intelligence agencies and others as it has the ability to collect intimate data from a target device. Pegasus software can be installed on devices as “exploit links”. The Indian government has denied purchasing or planning to buy Pegasus from the NSO Group.