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Pegasus Spyware Attack: Mindless Surveillance Without Any Accountability?

Who is answerable for this grave assault on privacy?

Published
Podcast
2 min read

The infamous Israeli spyware Pegasus has kicked up a storm once again.

Over 300 Indians may have been spied on using this dangerous software that can allow a hacker to gain access to pretty much everything in a person's phone including encrypted messages.

This egregious breach of privacy was reported by The Wire in a collaborative investigation conducted along with several other international media houses like The Guardian and The Washington Post that found a leaked database with 50,000 phone numbers from across the world, believed to be linked to persons of interest listed by the clients of the NSO — the Israeli firm that sells the Pegasus Spyware.

From the first tranche of reports that came on 18 July, we know that 40 of the 300 verified numbers from India belong to journalists from some of India's top media houses like the Hindustan Times, India Today, Network18, The Hindu, The Indian Express and The Wire.

The spyware is also believed to have been used on numbers belonging to at least nine rights activists, lawyers and academics who have been arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.

The second tranche of reports, that came on 19 July, state that PM Modi's political adversary Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and political strategist Prashant Kishor's numbers were also added to the list.

Ironically, even the recently sworn in IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw who is defending the Centre from allegations of spying is on the target list along with MoS Prahlad Patel.

Former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa and India's leading virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang have featured on the list of potential targets as well.

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While the NSO claims that it only sells the spyware to "vetted governments", the Indian government has dismissed the reports saying that they are not only 'bereft of facts but also founded in pre-conceived conclusions'.

But at a time when our smartphones have become a primary device that stores a lot of our personal data, what does the use of the Pegasus spyware on Indian journalists, opposition leader and other citizens say about the state of surveillance? Who is answerable for this grave assault on privacy?

In this podcast you'll hear from Senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP, Shashi Tharoor, Mishi Chaudhury, who's a lawyer and the Legal Director and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center and Apar Gupta, Executive Director of the Internet Freedom Foundation. Tune in!

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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