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Democracy under Surveillance

The direct threat of surveillance to civil and human rights is a global concern. 

Our democracy is under surveillance. The freedom of speech and expression being exercised by individuals within constitutional parameters cannot be considered as a threat to national security. Recent reports indicate that a number of Indians were kept under surveillance through a spyware software called Pegasus, which operates by primarily compromising data through WhatsApp. Once installed, the spyware can compromise everything on a mobile phone: calls, messages, passwords, and contact lists. It can even turn on the phone’s camera and microphones to capture activity near the phone. 

Pegasus is owned by the Israeli NSO Group Technologies; their services were used by the Saudi Arabian government to spy on people, to threaten and track them, including Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident and Washington Post columnist who was assassinated at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The Government of India’s response in Parliament on its use of Pegasus spyware was evasive, and its defence rested entirely on national security. Under current laws, the government indeed has the power to intercept specific communications during rare emergencies involving harm to public safety or harm to national security. But, national security cannot be used as a blanket exemption for everything, as Supreme Court has observed in K S Puttaswamy v Union of India in 2018. 

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Updated On : 26th Nov, 2019

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