India’s winter parliament session has just commenced, and there are already some controversial statements coming out. One of the most concerning of them, is Ministry of Home Affairs Junior minister, G Krishna Reddy’s response to questions related to data snooping and interception.
In a written reply when asked by an opposition lawmaker whether the government had snooped on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, and Google calls and messages, Reddy replied, that laws allowed federal and state governments to intercept “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource”.
His reply statement further said, that information can only be intercepted by “authorized agencies as per due process of law, and subject to safeguards as provided in the rules,”.
Reddy did not reply on whether the Indian Government had used the services of Pegasus software to snoop on a select group of activists and journalists across the country. There have been media reports doing the rounds, however there has been no confirmation or proof of government involvement in the hacking. Facebook has since filed a lawsuit, alleging that the Israeli company hacked into the mobile phones of some 1400 users using a hack in the Whatsapp video call module.
The government can monitor digital information “in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence,” Reddy said in his written statement to the parliament. No state agency has blanket permission for interception, he added. Each case is reviewed by a committee headed by the cabinet secretary in case of federal government and chief secretary of the state in case of a state government.