In Pegasus battle, the fight for surveillance reform
Supreme Court will hear the issue involving the alleged use of Pegasus spyware software. Last year, a group of 17 journalists from around the world released a list saying that the Union government used malware to spy on numerous famous persons.
What is Pegasus?
- Pegasus is a spyware developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group that helps spies break into phones.
- In 2019, when WhatsApp sued the company in a US court, the matter came to light.
- In July 2021, Amnesty International, along with 13 media outlets worldwide, released a report on how spyware was used to track hundreds of individuals, including Indians.
- While NSO claims its spyware is only sold to governments, none of the nations has come forward to accept these requests.
Concern related to Pegasus:
- Violation of privacy: The very existence of a surveillance system, whether under statutory provisions or not, has an impact on the right to privacy under Article 21 and the exercise of freedom of expression under Article 19.
- Restricting dissidents: Reflects a worrying trend regarding the use of hacking software against dissidents and opponents. In 2019, Pegasus software was also used to hack HR & Dalit activists.
- Individual Security: In the absence of privacy, the security of journalists, especially those whose work criticizes the government, and the personal security of their sources are at risk.
- Self-censorship: A persistent fear of being spied on can plague an individual. This can affect their ability to express, accept and discuss such ideas.
- State-sponsored mass surveillance: Spyware coupled with AI can manipulate digital content on users' smartphones. This in turn can polarize their opinion from remote controllers.
- National Security: Potential abuse or proliferation has the same, if not more, consequences as advanced nuclear technology falling into the wrong hands.