WhatsApp snooping: FB India chief appears before parliamentary panel


Ankhi Das, Public Policy Director Facebook India, South and Central Asia, on Friday submitted to a parliamentary panel probing the WhatsApp snooping scandal that the social media platform has an end-to-end encryption and it renders any effort to access the communication between its two users "unlikely from its end", sources said.

The parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Friday called the cyber security experts to hear their views on the issue of citizens data security and privacy.

As per the notice of the meeting, the panel had also called non-official witnesses of the WhatsApp snooping row, including BJP's former organisational secretary Govindacharya, who was represented by his lawyer in the meeting.

Representatives of WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, and the officials of Telecom and Union Home Ministry and Delhi chief secretary were also called by the panel, the notice read.

WhatsApp was represented by Das, who told the panel that it is unlikely to breach the end-to-end encryption of the social media platform from its end, sources said.

Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash and officials of the Home Ministry also appeared before the panel.

In a letter to the panel's members, Tharoor had earlier said that "Cybersecurity is a major issue on our agenda" and "we are definitely going to take this up under that rubric. And we will be seeking clarifications from the government."

In October, Facebook-owned WhatsApp said Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unidentified entities, using an Israeli spyware -- Pegasus.

Facebook owned WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users globally, of which India accounts for about 400 million.

Meanwhile, the WhatsApp had said it was suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance firm, that is reportedly behind the technology that helped unnamed entities hack into phones of roughly 1,400 users.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel