Snoopgate: criminal lawsuit in SC against WhatsApp, government

BENGALURU: Like the controversy over cyber snooping by Israel spyware Pegasus continues, the matter has now formally entered the Supreme Court. A criminal petition has been filed in the trial court against the popular messaging platform along with its parent company, Inc, and the Government of India has also been a party to it.

TOI has a copy of the petition filed Monday by K. N. Govindacharya, founder of Rashtriya Swabhimaan Aandolan and former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue. While the petition seeks an investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against WhatsApp and Facebook, in addition to accusing the messenger application of deceiving the government about its encryption security standards, it has also requested a prayer from the SC to 'order the government to stop any surveillance through Pegasus or other similar applications.'

Meanwhile, the government has also asked for an explanation from WhatsApp on the controversy. The petition has been filed against WhatsApp, Facebook Inc, ministry of electronics&IT and the home ministry. This is the first time the current controversy is moving to an Indian court after WhatsApp sued Israel’s in a US district court for placing spyware Pegasus on its users across the world, including India, to hack their private conversations. For WhatsApp, India is its largest market with 400 million monthly active users.

Human rights activists, journalists are among the people whose conversations are believed to have been hacked with Pegasus. “India is one of the largest markets, but WhatsApp decided to present a case to the United States district court and did not disclose the facts to the highest court in India. It is time for the SC to fix the civil and criminal responsibilities of technology companies for playing with the privacy and the right to life of Indian citizens, said Virag Gupta, a lawyer for Govindacharya. He is also the lawyer in a separate case that takes place in the SC against WhatsApp, where its compliance with data localization has been questioned.