Thought WhatsApp claimed that the company had informed the Indian government in September that 121 Indian users were targeted by the Israeli spyware Pegasus, the IT ministry has contended that the information received from the messaging app was just ‘ pure Technical Jargon’.
Government sources also say that WhatsApp had given information to CERT-IN, a government agency in May, but without any mention of Pegasus or the extent of the breach. It also insists that the information shared was only about a technical vulnerability and had nothing to do with the fact that privacy of Indian users had been compromised. IT ministry also added that the information given by WhatsApp in May was inadequate and incomplete.
To back its claim, a screenshot of the information shared with CERT-IN by WhatsApp was circulated by government sources. Earlier, highly-placed official sources indicated a war with the messaging platform, alleging that the whole controversy may be a ploy by the messaging company to build pressure on governments to push back on their demands on traceability.
"WhatsApp officials have met Indian government in the last five months. This incident is of August.... then why did WhatsApp not inform us that time. Looking at our demand, now the US, UK and Australia have also raised pitch for traceability. So this is too much of a coincidence. This could be an attempt by WhatsApp to build pressure on countries to push back on growing global opinion for traceability using this example," a source said.
The snooping of human rights activists and journalists in India via an Israeli spyware called Pegasus has snowballed into a major political controversy with Congress claimed on Sunday that the phone of Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadhra was tapped as part of the WhatsApp Snooping .