Government Did Not Engage Pegasus For Snooping On Individual Targets, Says Ravi Shankar Prasad
The government did not engage Pegasus for snooping on individual targets, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday.
Pegasus was recently dragged to U.S. courts by Whatsapp for a software, which allegedly helped an entity to remotely snoop on a target. Pegasus has said it provides services to sovereigns itself.
According to reports over 120 Indians, including human right activists and other critics of the government, have been targeted as part of the snooping.
At the Times Network's India Economic Conclave, the telecom minister was asked whether the government actually outsources interceptions to companies like Pegasus.
"We don't," was Prasad's quick answer on the question without elaborating.
He went on to hit out against journalists for using snooping devices while doing sting operations under the garb of public interest.
Seeming to go back to the Pegasus case, he said anybody doing "unauthorised interceptions" will have to "suffer the consequences".
He said the government's agency Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) is engaged in the matter concerning Whatsapp.
"One of the reasons why we are in serious pursuit of enquiry...(it) is also to insist that if any interception has to be there, it has to be fair in accordance with the law. If it is not, then obviously the consequences will come," the minister said.
Prasad said he has also met Nick Clegg, the former British Deputy Prime Minister now working for Whatsapp, has had discussions with him which he didn't elaborate.
He also said that global companies have to work with India as per the local laws, pointing out that the country is their largest market.
On the Data Protection Bill, he said the right to privacy is not absolute and comes with reasonable restrictions and added that it is the mandate of the government to protect privacy and also to ensure safety and security of the people.
He exuded confidence that the government will be able to convince Justice BN Srikrishna, the architect of the legislation who is himself not convinced with the draft bill.
The final draft of the bill will take care of all the concerns that Justice Srikrishna may be having, he said.
According to reports, the absolute control given to government and its agencies over a person's data is unnerving a lot of critics of the bill.