The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
The CPI(M) strongly condemns the hacking of the phones of activists, lawyers and journalists in India with Israeli Pegasus spyware. WhatsApp itself has accepted that over 1,400 people were targeted globally including 40 from India. It might be noted that if phones are hacked, all information on the phone including WhatsApp or other encrypted messages sent using platforms such as Telegram or Signal are then available to the agency that hacked the phone.
Any hacking of personal equipment such as a smart phone or a computer without a due process is a violation of a person’s fundamental right to privacy as laid down by the Supreme Court. The use of the spyware such as Pegasus is equivalent to an illegal search and seizure of the data and information held privately by an individual.
The owner of the Pegasus spyware, NSO, has declared that it only sells this software to government agencies, raising the suspicion that it is an agency of the government that has bought this software to target activists, journalists and lawyers.
The government needs to answer whether any of its agencies were involved in the use of this hacking software, particularly since most of the persons affected were targeted by the government in May last year. Under law, hacking peoples phones would constitute a cyber crime. If the government is not involved in the Pegasus software as it claims, why has it not filed a FIR and started criminal investigations? While the Cyber & Information Security Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs has denied purchasing Pegasus, the government is yet to declare that no other department such as NTRO, CBI or RAW has purchased it.
The CPI(M) demands that the government come clean on this issue. It must and order a criminal investigation. The Party also demands the passing of a comprehensive data protection law which safeguards the rights and privacy of citizens.