On Tuesday, local time, India’s Interior Minister G. Kishan Reddy refers to Section 69 of the Information Technology Act 2000 and Section 5 of the Telecommunications Act of 1885, stating that the Government has the right to intercept, monitor or decrypt any digital communications generated, transmitted, received or stored on citizen devices for the purposes of national security or friendly relations with foreign countries.
Reddy’s comments are understood to be in response to India’s parliament, where a lawmaker asked whether the government had spied on whatsApp, Messenger, Viber and Google calls and messages.
Earlier this month, 19 activists, journalists, politicians and privacy activists in India revealed that their WhatsApp communications may have been compromised by a cyber attack.
WhatsApp says tools from Israeli spyware maker NSO were used to send malware to 1,400 users. The Facebook-owned company has notified affected users about the matter in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the social giant sued NSO, saying its tools were used to hack the accounts of WhatsApp users.
But the NSO insists it only sells tools to governments and intelligence agencies, a claim that has raised fears that the government may be behind the efforts to target the 19 people – or more.
Although Reddy did not directly answer these questions, he said in a general written statement that authorized agencies to act in due course of law and subject to regulatory safeguards that could intercept, monitor or decrypt any information from any computer resource in the country.
He added that every such interception must be approved by the Federal Home Secretary (under the federal government case) and the State Home Secretary (under the state government case).
According to a report released by the New Delhi-based Software Law and Freedom Center (SFLC) a few days ago, the federal government alone has more than 100,000 phone hacking every year. “Coupled with the surveillance orders issued by the state government, it is clear that India is listening to citizens’ communications on an alarming scale. “
The nonprofit added that current law allows law enforcement agencies to monitor citizens’ private communications, but this approach is opaque because they are fully administered by the government’s executive branch and do not provide for any independent oversight of the monitoring process.