WASHINGTON: The US has said it is against the use of spying technology on civil society, regime critics and journalists through “extrajudicial means”, even as it maintained that it has no particular insight into the Pegasus snooping case in India.
The alleged use of the Pegasus software to spy on politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and others in many countries, including India, has triggered concerns over issues relating to privacy.
Politicians, rights activists and journalists were among those targeted with phone spyware sold to various governments by the Israeli firm NSO Group Technologies, according to an international media consortium.
“The whole notion of using this type of technology against civil society, or regime critics, or journalists, or anybody like that through extrajudicial means is always concerning,” Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson told reporters during a news conference here on Friday.
The international media consortium on Sunday reported that over 300 verified mobile phone numbers of over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders and one sitting judge besides scores of businesspersons and activists in India could have been targeted for hacking through the Pegasus spyware.
India on Monday categorically rejected allegations linked to the Pegasus snooping row, saying attempts were being made to “malign” Indian democracy.
Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw asserted that illegal surveillance was not possible with checks and balances in the country’s laws.
“The press reports of 18th July 2021 also appear to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well-established institutions,” Vaishnaw said in Parliament.
India, the minister said, has an “established protocol when it comes to surveillance… any form of illegal surveillance is not possible with the checks and balances in our laws and our robust institutions.”
Minister of state for external affairs Meenakshi Lekhi on Thursday said that the story on the alleged snooping through Israeli spyware Pegasus is “concocted, fabricated and evidence-less” and that the news reports based on it call for “defamation”.
When asked about the Pegasus snooping case in India, Thompson said:
“We I don’t have any particular special insights into the India case.”
“I know this is a broader issue, but I will say that we’ve been, I think, quite vocal about trying to find ways for companies to be able to ensure that their technology is not used in these types of ways. And we will certainly continue to press those issues.