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Pegasus Row: Surveillance For National Interests or Discrete Snooping?


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Pegasus Row: Surveillance For National Interests or Discrete Snooping?

A joint investigation led by a global consortium of more than 17 media houses revealed the dangerous face of the Pegasus spyware. Targets of the spyware include several influential people, of which 2 are Indian union ministers. The list includes the woman who accused ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi of sexual assault, and a slew of journalists, lawyers and others. Political strategist Prashant Kishor and Rahul Gandhi are also believed to be targets of Pegasus. The potential targets also include Emmanuel Macron.

What the report has brought up so far:

The Pegasus spyware, brainchild of Israeli firm NSO, has the ability to access almost all data on one’s phone. It can also access the phone’s camera and microphone. The revelation of the investigative report put the government and the opposition in a flurry. A lot of the targets include those who are critical of the government. Journalists, internet activists have since raised their concerns about the fragile system of privacy one has today.

While the center and the opposition play the blame game, it is pertinent to note that privacy, both physical and digital, is as good as absent today. Though NSO has made its stand by saying that the company is helping people sleep well because of its technologies, including Pegasus. Despite playing the savior, those targeted by the spyware have a different story to tell. NSO has also made a lot of money from Pegasus. Mexico bought the software for 32 million to spy on a handful of 500 people. The constant snooping in the name of surveillance and security now has to be held accountable.

The Wire, a part of the consortium that led the investigation, reports that journalists from notable media houses had their privacy compromised by Pegasus. These include The Indian Express, The Hindu, The Wire itself, and many more. There have been no center-led talks of launching a probe and get to the roots of the issue. IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the government was not involved in snooping, and was later found to be a potential target of the Pegasus project.

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So far, West Bengal is the only state to have launched a probe into Pegasus. A commission will look into probable incidents of spying, government role, among other points. This is after Abhishek Banerjee, General Secretary of Trinamool was also identified as a potential Pegasus target.

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