Editor: Vishal Kumar
Amid reports of Israeli developer NSO Group deploying a spyware called Pegasus on Indians’ smartphones through messaging platform WhatsApp, Supreme Court lawyer and Executive Director of Internet Freedom Foundation Apar Gupta, speaking to The Quint, said such programmes have the ability to gain “complete access” to smartphones.
Speaking on NSO’s claim that it sells its knowledge to governments, Gupta said, “It raises question on whether the government procured the spyware and utilised it because it can be installed by a simple missed call on a WhatsApp number. The spyware can get complete access to contacts, call logs and it can even switch on the call recording device.”
“The existing safeguards against surveillance are only for analog telephone calls and they do not account for troves of personal data on smartphones,” Gupta, who is a prominent voice in the field of digital rights, said.
As far as the legal aspect of the reported snooping is concerned, Gupta said that in 2017, the SC reaffirmed the fundamental right to privacy, which was further substantiated in the Aadhaar ruling by making judicial oversight necessary in such cases.
“Installation of spyware and malware, which creates backdoors in our devices obviously go much beyond this. It would be not just illegal but also unconstitutional,” he said.
He also said the government should make “full and frank disclosure” on whether it procured the spyware, how were they used and whether any legal safeguards were put in place for its deployment.