FILE PHOTO: A man poses with a smartphone, located in front of the display, Whatsapp logo, in this picture, September 14, 2017. REUTERS/dado Ruvic/File Photo
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India has asked the Facebook-owned (FB is.O WhatsApp, to explain the nature of the privacy breach for the messaging platform, which has affected some of the users in the country, the Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday.
A WhatsApp spokesperson was quoted by the Indian Express newspaper on Thursday said that Indian journalists and human rights defenders have been the targets of surveillance by the Israeli spyware. The company said that it was “not insignificant number” of people, but not in great detail.
WhatsApp’s comments came after the messaging platform, sued the Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group on Tuesday, accusing it of helping the government spies to break into the phones of approximately 1,400 users across four continents, including diplomatic, political dissidents, journalists, and government officials. NSO did not deny the allegations.
“We have been asked to set WhatsApp, to explain the nature of the violation, and what they are doing to ensure the privacy of millions of Indian citizens,” Prasad said in a tweet.
WhatsApp said it had no comment on Prasad’s tweet, but it is meant to be a last WhatsApp, with the statement that the company believes that people have the fundamental right to privacy, and no-one else has access to their private communications.
In India WhatsApp is the largest market of 400 million people. Overall, the platform is used by approximately 1.5 billions of people on a monthly basis and is often recommended to have a high level of security including end-to-end encrypted messages that cannot be decrypted by WhatsApp or any other third party.
In the lawsuit, filed in federal district court in San Francisco-WhatsApp, the accused NSO to facilitate the government’s hacking attack in 20 different countries, said that it is “an unmistakable pattern of abuse.”
Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan and Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Susan Fenton