On Thursday, WhatsApp admitted to having been accessible to Israel-based cyber-spies who were tracking and snooping on activists and journalists in India.
Along with India, in May 2019 a total of 1,400 journalists and activists from parts of Africa, Europe, Middle East and North America were also targeted by the Israel-based techies monitoring WhatsApp conversations in violation of the apps security and privacy guidelines.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Indian Minister of Information and Technology, took to Twitter on Thursday to address the violations of Indians' privacy and expressed serious concerns.
Government of India is concerned at the breach of privacy of citizens of India on the messaging platform Whatsapp. We have asked Whatsapp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens. 1/4 pic.twitter.com/YI9Fg1fWro— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) October 31, 2019
A Delhi-based digital platforms’ watchdog called “Internet Freedom Foundation” also pushed for “surveillance reform” in India, triggered by the alarming spy-attack.
With 400 million monthly active users, India is the biggest market for WhatsApp in the world.
Back in 2017, the messaging app applied end-to-end encryption to chats on its platform to ensure the security of the information exchanged.
The feature is usually a precautionary layer of protection that safeguards messages, photos, videos, voice notes, documents, status updates, links and calls from falling into the wrong hands.
However, the question that surfaces here is WhatsApp’s position on this particular data breach incident, and how the cyber-spies got past their encryption.
Canada-based interdisciplinary laboratory Citizen Lab is currently investigating the spyware that compromised the private information of eminent people and gave access to hackers.
Interestingly, this news of another Facebook data breach scandal comes at a time when the US-based social networking giant is locking horns with the government of India, over refusing to let authorities investigate the chats of alleged suspects involved in spreading fake news to a population of 1.7 billion.
WhatsApp’s explanation on 4 November to the IT Ministry of India on this spy-strike on Indians is expected to have a direct effect on the response to “WhatsApp Pay” – the in-app digital payments service Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to “soon” launch in India.